In a very short amount of time Paula lived in two different places. First it was in an apartment down there in Oak Hill, over on the other side of Mt. Vernon Road, and that was to be with Robert. That’s when she and I had our big falling out. I never saw that place. I never would go over there.
But then it wasn’t too much later that she’d had enough of that, and maybe she wanted to do the right thing, so she moved out of that area down there and over to the West Side, into that house on 10th Street with Debby Kellogg.
Paula had started dating Lonnie Bell at that time, too. He was a nice white boy with long blond hair and a beautiful smile. Maybe in her heart it was always going to be Robert, but it seems like Paula was starting to come around then, and she was going to do the right thing and please her mother, anyway.
I never knew Debby Kellogg very well, but I never liked her either. What I knew of her, I didn’t like. She was, to me, a sneaky little girl. I tolerated her, because she was Paula’s friend, but I never liked her. She and Lynn were friends first. But when this happened, they never talked again, that I know of. To this day, I know in my heart that she was lying.
Paula was extremely excited with her sister being pregnant. When Lynn Marie was in labor she was in my bed. This was before she had to go to the hospital. And Paula was at the house with Lonnie Bell. She came over on her lunch hour or something, and she went upstairs and she said, “Come on, Lynn. Hurry, hurry, hurry.” She was so excited, but I think it turned out she got to hold that baby only twice.
When Lynn graduated from school, she stayed home. She was smart like that. She figured, why should she go pay rent when she had food and laundry and whatever else she needed right here. So, she stayed home. She moved out briefly, when she first got married, but then in May of 1970, Randy went in the Navy so they gave up their apartment and Lynn moved back home to have her baby and live with us.
Paula, though, she couldn’t wait to be gone.
That’s why I just sometimes feel that little Paula Jean was a disappointment. Or she felt that she was a disappointment. See, we always had such high hopes for her. I always thought she was going to be the one to do something special with her life. She was trying, with Lonnie Bell, but he cared a lot more about her than she did for him. She was trying to make a go of it, but her heart belonged to Robert.
Then it was on the Fourth of July, she came by the house to borrow a skillet and a whole bunch of stuff, because she was having a picnic, and she was excited about cooking. She and Lonnie and their friends. Debby Kellogg and Ben Carroll, probably.
So I tried really hard. I remember her bringing back that skillet, and I asked her how her picnic went, and she said, “Good.” That’s all. She didn’t tell me anything else. She had nothing more to say about it.
The last time I saw her—at that time I was going through a poor stage, because I had just divorced the children’s father, and we were going through kind of hard times. Paula had left a couple of pairs of sandals at the house, and I’d been wearing them, because I didn’t have anything else to wear. They were exactly alike, these kind of braided strappy sandals. Well, Paula came by that day, and she said, “Mama, where are my shoes?” And I said, “In my closet.” I said, “Are you taking them?” And she said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Paula, I won’t have any shoes.” She said, “Well, Mom, they’re my shoes!” And she took the shoes. Got in the car, waved, and drove away. And that’s the last time I ever saw her, because few days after that, she was gone.
That house where she was living at the time, I was only in it one time, when we went over there to clear out her stuff. There were these mint bedspreads and curtains that came from when I did the girls’ room. I did everything in mint green and flowers. That was when they got their Princess telephone. Well, when Paula moved out, I gave her that bedding, and it was in that house when we were over there, after she was gone.
Downstairs there was a dining room and off the dining room there was a French door, and there was a little room, and I understand that was the room she was in that night, just before she left. They told me she was playing music in there. That she’d had a date with Lonnie. She went home. She got ready for bed. She was listening to music.
Of course, that all came from Debby Kellogg. She was the only one with Paula that night, and she told us she was playing the music and hanging posters. Then the phone rang and she went upstairs and clicked on the light and said, “Can I borrow your car real quick?”
When Paula went missing, Lonnie came by the house every day and sat with us. He drove Lynn around after every little lead. They’d get in the car and go check it.
We were getting those awful crank phone calls. “Mrs. Oberbroeckling, I know where Paula is.” Or, “Mrs. Oberbroeckling, your daughter is at such and such.” We were so scared and we were so upset. And they’d give us an address, they’d say something like, “She’s in a white house and it’s on the second floor.” And so on like that. So we’d get in the car and go over there—poor little Lynn Marie with the baby—but there’d be nothing there. Sometimes there wasn’t even such an address. These were just mean people. Just mean people who weren’t thinking and didn’t know how to behave.
It was awful, and I was scared to death to leave the house for fear I’d miss a phone call. It was a nightmare, just an absolute nightmare. I could get no help from the police. Got no help from the Gazette. I called the Gazette, because Joe Hladky there was a friend of mine. He’d been to parties at my house, and I said, “Joe, my daughter’s missing.” I said, “Is there any way you’ll sell me some space with her picture? You know, ‘Have you seen this girl?’” “No, no, no, no,” he says. “We don’t do that.” Now you can do it for your runaway cat, of course, but back then, no way. He says, “We don’t put stuff like that in the paper.” He said, “The best I can do, Carol, is I will talk to my feature writers and see if any of the guys are interested in writing a story.” And he called me back a while later and he said, “There’s no interest. Nobody’s interested in writing a story about your girl.”
And the police. All I heard from the police was, “All you mothers sound alike. All of you think your children wouldn’t just go off and leave you. Probably she’s at one of those rock concerts like Woodstock. Just wait a while, and she’ll come back.”
They absolutely just would not do a thing. No help. No help at all. And I’d say, “She’s a very conscientious person. If she’s going to be fifteen minutes late for work, she’ll call her boss and say, ‘I’m going to be late.’ This isn’t something Paula would do. Paula just doesn’t not show up for work. She doesn’t disappear.” Nobody would listen to me.
We tried to get pictures out, but nobody was interested in that, either. So Grandma Vera, Jim’s mother, she went around and posted flyers, and the kids went around and they posted flyers. Tim and Todd and Chris, they were too young, and they weren’t even around at the time, anyway, because well as a matter of fact my friend Tom McDonald that gave me the squaw purse, he took them out to his cabin, and he kept the boys out there for me until school started.
After she went missing, her boss told me, “Did you know that Paula had planned on moving back home?” And I said, “No, I didn’ t know that.” This was her boss out at Younkers, and she said, “Paula told me, she said, ‘I’m going to move back home and help Mama, like I should have done in the first place. ‘” But then her father maintained that she told him she was going to come out to Colorado with him. So, I don’t know.
And then there was the car. Debby’s car. I thought she could be in the trunk. I was scared to death. That’s what I thought. They raped her, they strangled her, and they threw her in the trunk and left the car. So, I was almost dead positive that she was going be in that trunk. But she wasn’t. Maybe that was lucky, I thought. Maybe she would turn up all right.
But that was hard to believe, because it was not like Paula to do this, disappear altogether. I knew she would never do that. Not take her clothes, her makeup, her hair stuff, her curlers—if she was going somewhere. She’s not that type. We knew her enough to know. She’s, first of all, too responsible. She would have told people at work, and she would never have put us through that. So, just her being gone overnight and not going to work, we knew something had happened to her. We knew that.
I went to the pay phone there at the grocery store and called the police, and a guy came out and we told him that Paula is missing and this is the car that she had borrowed and all that. And he said to Debby Kellogg, “Do you have keys to the car?” And she said, “Yes.” And he says, “Get it out of here. It’s in a no parking zone.” And I said, “Aren’t you going to impound this car? Aren’t you going to check it? Aren’t you going to do anything with it?” And he said, “No ma’am.”
See, there again they dropped the ball. No fingerprints, nothing. No searching for blood. Nope, nobody was interested. Nobody gave a hoot. Paula was missing and nobody cared. Not even the police. And that was supposed to be their job.
I even tried psychics. That’s how desperate I was. I was seeing a fellow at the time, and he was into numerology, which I guess is quite a thing. I don’t know that much about it myself. But he took me out to see a lady he knew and she read the cards for me. They weren’t Tarot cards, they were just a regular deck of cards, and it was the numbers on them that she was using to find out where Paula was. She said, “There’s something about a train. I don’t know if she’s on a train, been on a train or going on a train, but there’s something about a train.”
Then another time this fellow came over again and this time he said, “I’m going over to this lady’s house and she goes into a trance and she gets letters and you write down the letters and then you separate them into words.” He says, “Give me Paula’s picture and something that was hers,” so I gave him her yearbook picture and a shoe. He came back and he said the lady went into a trance and she said, “I don’t know why, but I smell train smoke.”
Once I heard it raining in the night and I thought, “It’s raining on my baby and I don’t know where she is.”
And my neighbor came to see me the next morning. I was making coffee, and I turned around and looked at her and I said, “It rained on Paula last night.” And she said, “I know it did.” Because I knew that she was dead. Because I knew she wouldn’t do this to me, she wouldn’t let all this time go by and not contact me.
The days went into weeks, and the weeks went into months. We knew she was laying someplace. We just didn’t know where.
One of the things when they discovered her little skeleton was that her nails were beautifully done, and, in a way, when the body was found it was a relief, because at least we knew where she was.
When I had to call out to Colorado and tell Jim that they found Paula, his wife answered and I said, “Patty, you stay there with him.” And she said, “Okay,” and then he came on the phone and I said, “Jimmer, they found our daughter,” and he just went berserk.
I’ve heard so many rumors. Like that she had an abortion on that night when she disappeared. That she started bleeding and the doctor, Sturgeon his name was, he panicked and the lady who was helping him called the hospital to see if they could get some blood. That they didn’t get any blood, and so Paula died. That she bled to death.
That’s always been hard for me to believe, though, because Paula loved kids so much, and she always said she wanted a dozen of them.
I don’t know how that story started, because the police never told me that. I don’t even remember who I heard that from. I just heard so many things.
I always had a gut feeling that Robert and Lonnie had nothing to do with it. Then I heard one story that someone saw Paula with the hood up on the car over by the old Post Office down on First Street. She had car trouble or something like that. That’s all I heard, though. I don’t know who the man was or if he was ever a suspect.
I even thought, at one time, that maybe it was Ted Bundy. I used to see pictures of him and I thought, “Did you hurt my Paula?”Because I understand he was a very charming character. And he would have picked Paula out. She was so beautiful. He would have picked her, I know. If he saw her.
Finally I just got up to here with it, and I didn’t want to hear anymore. I didn’t want to deal with it anymore, so I just closed it all off. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I just closed myself off, and I thought, I’ll wait until the day I die or Judgment Day or Resurrection Day, and then I’ll find out what happened to my Paula. Because I knew that talking about it was not going to bring my baby back. Nothing will do that. She’s not going to come in and say, “Hi Mom.” Nope, she fell through the cracks. Because I could get no help. Absolutely nobody would help me.
But I take some consolation from my understanding that bleeding to death is a quiet way to die. Very peaceful. If that’s what happened, she would not have realized that she was dying. She would have just gone to sleep and died. As opposed to some horrible reason for why she was all tied up. So it would be peaceful for me to know that my child just laid on a table and died. Bled to death and didn’t know she was dying. As opposed to being murdered or something like that.
Joe Abodeely was supposed to be my friend. And that chiropractor, Dr. Sturgeon, he was notorious for doing abortions. I knew he was doing them. Everybody knew he was.
And I knew Joe for years and years and years. I used to go to his place over at the Unique Motel. There was a bar underneath there. It wasn’t very big. Jim and I used to go there a lot when we were still married. And Joe, he played the drums, too. He had another really really neat bar called The Tender Trap, and that one was more fun. He had wonderful music there, and my girlfriend and I—our husbands were working in Wyoming at the time—and so on Saturday night she and I, we’d go down there and Al Jarreau, bless his heart, was singing, and he would always come and sit with us and say, “What can I sing for you ladies tonight?” Bless his heart. And I always had him sing “Miss Otis Regrets.”
After hours Joe would go back in the kitchen and make us the most delicious hot ham sandwiches on black rye bread with horse radish. And a coffee. And we’d sit there and eat those sandwiches.
Joe Abodeely, he had no scruples. He liked money. He was the one that would set abortions up, and he did it out of the motel. It wouldn’t bother him a bit that it was Carol Oberbroeckling’s daughter. Unless she gave him a fake name.
Paula and I, we were not really close, and that’s why, if there’s anything to the abortion story, I know she would not have come and told me and said, “Momma, what should I do?”
I knew that Dr. Sturgeon and Joe Abodeely were hooked up. And everybody knew that Sturgeon did abortions. So it doesn’t take much to figure out that Abodeely set him up. Because Joe had no scruples. He was a wheeler-dealer. I even heard at one time that he was mixed up with the Mafia, and then he was with the big guys out in Las Vegas. Nothing he ever did, whatever, surprised me. I can’t say he was my friend, but we knew each other. Really well.
If Paula was telling me the truth—unless she couldn’t keep away and she was sneaking back without telling us—she was done with Robert. She was moving on. She’d already left her apartment down there, and she had started seeing Lonnie Bell. So it seemed that the Robert thing was over by then. And yet I always had the feeling that Lonnie cared much more for her than she did for him. So maybe she was trying this, but would go back to Robert. But she didn’t want us to know that. So, she didn’t tell us. She knew we didn’t like it.
I didn’t approve of what she did, but I stuck up for her. I remember one time she came over, she had gotten off work, and Mom and her had some words, and she was leaving early or someone was coming back to pick her up, and so she was going to leave. So Paula started walking, and I said, “Well, I’m not letting her walk,” and I got the car and I drove her home. And that was when she lived down in Oak Hill.
I would defend her to my last, and I would talk to her, and I would never stop loving her. I wasn’t like my mom. I mean, I didn’t agree with what she was doing, but that wouldn’t make me change my feelings for her, not in the slightest. I think that she was trying to do what she thought was the right thing and move on, but I don’t think that’s where her heart was.
Lonnie Bell came along when I was already married to Randy and Paula and I were living in different places, so we weren’t together twenty-four hours a day anymore, like we had been before. I know that they were very fond of each other and getting very close when it happened.
So, if she was pregnant, then who was the father? Lonnie always said it wasn’t him. I don’t know anything about what she might have been doing about birth control. That wasn’t something that we talked about. I know didn’t use anything. It was the old pop out method for us. Of course, I got pregnant that way myself. But I was married by then. Or shortly thereafter anyway.
Some people said that Lonnie was a dealer, but I don’t know that to be a fact. I do know that there were some people who went out to California and brought back some speed and marijuana and I don’t know what else. LSD, I guess.
We all hung out at Henry’s Hamburger, and you’d drive through and get your meal in a sack, then park to the side and eat it. The guy that owned the place was always trying to kick us out all the time. A lot of people were doing drugs then. Not me. I was about the only one who didn’t though. I didn’t believe in that. I smoked cigarettes right and left, and I drank beer back then, too, but I wouldn’t touch anything else. They did, though, Paula and Debby and their friends. I was very upset with her about that at the time.
They all went out to CeMar Acres to ride the roller coaster one time when they’d taken some LSD, to see what that was going to be like. And maybe she was doing speed sometimes, too, because I went home another time and our room—we shared a room, we’d always shared a room—it was spotlessly clean. And I joked, I said, “Well, if you’re gonna clean like this, I guess you can do that again.” But of course I wasn’t serious. It wasn’t long term or anything like that, but she was doing some experimenting along with her friends.
As a matter of fact, somebody wanted to put some acid in my Coke once and Sherrie Robertson told them, “You can’t do that. She will lose her mind if you do that.”
When they went out to ride the roller coaster, I just sat there by myself.
All that was totally separate from what was going on with Paula and Robert Williams, though. That was absolutely totally separate. When we were around Henry’s and all that, he was nowhere around.
As for Debby Kellogg, I never thought she was being honest. I could never get her to tell me anything. She smoked pot, and she sniffed glue till hell wouldn’t have it in high school. I mean, constantly. She would come into school and go in the office and tell them that she had glazed donuts on her cheeks. And I think it fried her brain. I really think she was screwed up.
That summer of 1970, I was pregnant with my first child, and it was just me and Mom and my brothers in the house together. Dad had moved away to Colorado, and he was trying to get up on his feet out there. Randy went into the Navy in that May, and we moved into my mom’s house on Franklin Avenue couple months before that. I paid my mom a small amount of rent, and the baby was coming. The plan was for me to stay there until Randy was settled somewhere and then he’d send for me.
Shannon was born July 1st, and Paula came over to the house when I was first in labor and she was telling me, “Hurry up! Speed it up! Get going!” I wasn’t going fast enough for her, I guess.
And then I saw her a couple of times between July 1st and July 11th, and the last time I saw her, I don’t know the exact day, but she fed the baby and then we were in the dining room and she said, “Is your stomach all icky?” And I said, “Yeah.” I mean, of course it was. I hadn’t even had this baby two weeks. And it was all marshmallowy and soft, and I showed her and she goes, “Ew! I don’t like that. I wouldn’t like that at all.” And that’s the last time that we ever talked, because a couple of days later, she was gone.
On the morning of July 11th Mom came upstairs, and she said, “Get up! Something’s not right. Younkers just called and your sister never showed up for work.”
I’m not sure what time it was. Seems like it was nine-thirty, and Paula was supposed to be there at nine. So I got up and got the baby and went downstairs, and Mom was in the kitchen trying to call people. Because my sister wasn’t like that. She was dependable. There had to be a reason she didn’t call and didn’t go to work. So we called Lonnie Bell to see if he knew where she was. Because she was dating him at that time, and they had been to dinner the night before, and he dropped her off at the house that she shared with Debby Kellogg, over on the West Side, right over the bridge. We called Kellogg, too, and she told us Paula wasn’t there.
So then we keep calling Younkers, in case she shows up, but they keep telling us that no, she’s not there. Mom’s getting upset, because we know that something’s not right, but we can’t get any answers. Finally, after a while, Mom says, “Well, I’m calling the police.” And she tells them we can’t find Paula—she’s not at home and she’s not at work—and of course that’s when we get the “How old is she?”"She’s 18.” “Well, then we can’t do anything.” We get that. And Mom’s telling them, “Well, you don’t understand.” And they tell her, “Well, we do understand, but we can’t do anything about it.”
And Mom’s getting more and more worked up.
The night before, I was in the upstairs bedroom, and I was lying in bed, and I think it was like 10:00 or 10:30, maybe a little later. Debby Kellogg drove a little black car, I don’t know what kind it was, but I remember hearing this car honk that night. And I looked out the window, and I said, “Oh, that’s Paula and Debby.” And they went “honk-honk-honk, honk-honk-honk,” all the way down the street past the house, and I thought to myself, “What are those girls doing? Why didn’t they stop?”
That was my thought. I mean, at that time I knew nothing that was going on. I just thought that was them.
Kellogg said that Paula took her car to go buy a pack of cigarettes and didn’t come back. So, I mean, I’ve got an eleven-day-old baby, and I can’t do a whole lot, and my brothers, they’re gone to the cabin on the river with a friend, so we get two next door neighbor boys, to go driving around and see if they can find her. Greg and Brad Johnson. They lived right next door. They also went to Washington. And they’re driving around and finally Brad comes back and says, “I think I found it.”
We drove over there to where he said. If you’re going down 10th Street past the hospital, there used to be, sitting right there on the corner of the first street along there, there was this little bakery. Across from where the Eagle Market was. And up a couple few car lengths from the stop sign, there was Debby’s car.
Right away we called the police. I was very upset, and this is the first thing where I don’t have very much respect for the Cedar Rapids Police Department. Because an officer came up, and we were standing there by the car, and it was not locked, but there was nothing in it. No keys, no purse, nothing.
And so this policeman pulls up and we tell him, “This is the car that our missing sister was driving last night,” and he looks at us and says, “Do you see that sign?” It was a No Parking Here To Corner sign. He says, “You need to move that car or it’s gonna get a ticket.” And we’re asking him, “Don’t you need to fingerprint it? Why don’t you fingerprint it?” My mom and I are trying to get him to listen to us. “She’s missing!” See, at that time they still didn’t think anything had happened.
“She wanted to find herself.” We heard this many times. “She’s eighteen and she just wanted to be on her own.” “She’s gonna come back when she’s had enough of whatever she wants to do.” All those things you hear. And we kept saying, “You don’t know. First of all, you don’t know Paula. There’s no way that girl would leave without her make-up, her hair curlers, her clothes, her purse.” There was nothing taken. Not a thing. She was barefoot, too.
So like dummies, we pushed the car. Back then you did what the police told you to do. We had to push it down and around so it was out of this no parking zone.
Kellogg told us that Paula came home from dinner with Lonnie, and she was in bed and Paula was playing music and hanging posters in this little TV room they had downstairs. The phone rang, and Paula came up to Debby’s room and flipped on the light and said, “Can I borrow your car to go get a pack of cigarettes? I’ll be right back.” And Debby said yes. Then Paula flicked the light off and left. And then nobody ever saw her again. Not that I know of anyway.
So then after so many days the police weren’t doing anything for us, and Mom called the newspaper. She wanted to put Paula’s picture in a story or an ad. A missing persons ad. But the paper, they said, “No, we can’t do that.” Same thing: “She’s 18.” You can put a missing dog in the newspaper, all right, but they wouldn’t do this for us.
So we took her picture and we printed up—with our own funds—we printed up “Missing” with her picture and information, and Lonnie Bell and I just went all over town with it. Gas stations and 7-11 and such. And we got no help from anybody. No help from the police or the newspapers or the news media.
She was 18 years old, and they said, “She’s free to do whatever she wants to do.” How do you make people understand that you know your family members, that they aren’t going to just take off and discover themselves? And especially Paula. She would have had to have tons of stuff before she was going to take off somewhere for any amount of time.
I mean, she had a lot of clothes. When we went to move her out of that house, there were clothes, there were shoes, there were even swimsuits with tags still on them. Now why would she go off and leave those?
They said that she was wearing this blue dress. I know which one it was, because I’d seen it before. I’d even worn it myself. It was blue and it had little straps, not spaghetti straps, these were elastic straps. It was empire waist, and the material went this way and that way, criss-cross across the top, and the skirt was to the knee or maybe a little bit higher. I don’t know what kind of material it was, whether it was light or not, but at least I know it wasn’t sheer. The police always, every time, they’d say, “Well, the nightgown.” And Mom would say, “It wasn’t a nightgown.”
Paula had several of them. They were called bra dresses. I know she had a blue and white one that was v-necked, too, and that one zipped up the back. It was summertime, and these dresses, they were just sundresses, that’s what they were. They didn’t last very long. They had built-in bras in them so you didn’t have to wear a bra. And they had matching panties that went with them. But we never found those.
And she was barefoot. I heard that, too. But that’s not significant, because we always went barefoot. We lived barefoot. I drove barefoot. I think it was against the law back then, but I just never wore shoes. So, it would have not been unusual at all for her to be barefoot that night. Especially if she was just running out to get a pack of cigarettes, like Debby said.
Since I wasn’t there when she left, I don’t know for truth what she had on.
During the time that she was missing, Lonnie was there all the time and he would drive me around and it was the middle of the summer, so it was really really hot. We would go through a lot of lemonade and water, and he was helping me fill the ice cube trays one time, and he said, “If you fill the trays up with hot water, they’ll freeze faster.” And I said, “That makes absolutely no sense.” And he said, “Well, but it’s true.” And I said, “But if it’s already cold, it’s gonna freeze faster than if it’s hot. It’s got to get cold and then…” And we were arguing about this.
I never thought that Lonnie Bell had anything to do with it. I never did. But my mom had her doubts in the beginning. She told me then, “He’s hanging around every day because he wants to know what we know. He wants to find out what we know.”
I think if he didn’t care about her he would have stopped coming by all the time. He might have hung around for a while and then just let it go. He could have said, “Well, she’s gone.” But he didn’t do that. He hung around for quite a while. And then when they found her, he was right there, too.
Not Debby, though. No no no. Not at all. I tried to talk to her and she barely could even look at me. She wouldn’t want to get with us. I said, “Mom, I don’t think Kellogg’s telling us everything. I think she knows more. Or what she’s telling us isn’t right.” I just didn’t believe her. I couldn’t get any of it to make sense. But I couldn’t ask her because she didn’t want to hardly ever come around.
My mom’s birthday is in September, and when the day came and went we knew we weren’t going to see Paula again. Before that we had hope; you always have hope. You think, “Maybe she did do this, maybe she did.” My mom had more hope than I did, but when she got no birthday card, she said, “She’s never coming back.”
The night in November, when the police came by, I answered the phone and the detective said that he and another person wanted to come over to the house and talk to us. I think it was a Sunday night, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I told Mom and she said, “Oh, that’s bad. When they come in twos, that’s bad.”
They came over and they said that they’d found a body and that there were rings. And they had the two rings. And they were hers. And like an idiot, instead of being there for my mom, I just went totally to pieces. I mean, totally. My mom had to comfort me, and I should have been there for her.
And it was on the news. We watched them putting these cardboard boxes in the back of an ambulance. They just put her bones in a bunch of cardboard boxes and piled them in there like that. They put that on television. I thought that was horrible.
But that news wasn’t on ten minutes than Lonnie was at the door. He was upset. Excited, like. He came in saying, “Is it her? Is it her?” He was very upset, because he really cared for her. He probably cared more for her than she did for him.
Her hands and feet were tied, we were told. Hands behind her back and feet tied. And it was down by Otis Road, that’s where she was laying all that time.
There’s a high road there and then down there’s a grassy area and then there’s a low road. And then there’s the river. And right across the river was where the dump was. And the police theorized that they threw her out into the ditch off the top road, hoping she would just roll down to the low road and be found. Well, but what happened in reality is she got wrapped on a guy wire stake and so she didn’t go. And it’s July, everything’s all overgrown and bushy and everything, so nobody noticed that she was there.
Then these two boys found her, five months later. Two Boy Scouts, I think, and they went and got their father. When they found her, it was November, so everything, all the grass and brush around there was dead. So she would be more visible.
There was one person who came forward later and said that they remembered walking their dog around there one time, and they smelled a horrible smell, but they just thought it was the dump across the way. This person said, “Now I realize it could have been her.” Because she laid there for quiet some time. Five months.
I’ve also heard that she was in a basement. They left her in a basement dead for eight days, and then somebody else said they heard she was in a basement dead for three days. Now, I don’t know if they said that because they thought I might rather hear “dead” than have to imagine her laying there and no one doing anything for her.
When Randy and I got engaged, we took out life insurance, and the day that we got married, the insurance agent came over to my mom’s to deliver the policies. Paula was there, and the guy started talking to her about, did she ever consider life insurance? Usually, when you’re seventeen and sixteen years old, you really don’t think about life insurance, but this guy must have been a really good salesman, because she bought a $10,000 policy with triple indemnity, should she die in an accident or whatever. And she was keeping it up faithfully until she disappeared.
So Mom and I were talking one day and she goes, “Oh, if Paula’s gone,” she says, “I don’t know how I’m going to bury her. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” And I said, “You know she has a life insurance policy.” I’m not even sure if Mom knew that she had taken it out. So my dear precious grandmother, she paid the premiums on that life insurance policy. So that if something were wrong, that we would have this insurance money. Bless her heart, she would faithfully pay that for the five months.
But then when they found Paula’s body, the company said they wouldn’t pay, because there was no cause of death. You see, the death certificate says “unknown.” They sent her body to Iowa City and they put the bones through every machine, every x-ray. They couldn’t see where a bullet may have ricocheted off a bone or any knife marks. They couldn’t tell from the little bones in her neck whether she’d been strangled. They examined the dress, too, but they didn’t find any blood there. No traces of blood anywhere. So the death certificate says “Cause of death unknown.”
So they wouldn’t pay off on the insurance policy. They just kept giving my mom the runaround, and then this friend of hers came over one day, and she was sitting there crying, and she says, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I’ve got this cemetery bill and I can’t pay it.” So this friend, he called the head of the insurance commission, and it wasn’t more than three days later my mom had the check. For the whole $30,000.
It was almost like a premonition. You’ve got this 17-year-old girl buying a $30,000 life insurance policy. That’s unheard of.
I know Debby wasn’t being honest about what went on that night, and I begged her. I begged her. I said, “If you know anything, please please tell me.” “No, nope, that’s all I know. I don’t know anything.”
She was right there when Paula left the house, and if it was what she said—that she went to buy a pack of cigarettes—and that’s what really happened, then Debby should have continued that story through the whole thing. I thought all along that Debby Kellogg made up the going out for cigarettes story. Debby probably knows why she went out and where she was going. So we also thought, well maybe she was going to sneak out to meet Robert. But if Robert wasn’t home that night, then it must be that somebody did something bad to her. Somebody got her. I always thought that it was that. I thought it might have been an accident by Robert, but I just knew that Kellogg was lying through the whole thing. She lied constantly. She lied to her mother. She was a mixed up little girl. She was horrid.
I felt a lot of guilt, and I missed my sister tremendously. I mean it was the hardest thing in the whole world, not to have her and not to see her. We did everything together. Up to the point where I got married, we did. And then she moved out, and went to live down there, so we didn’t see each other on a daily basis anymore. But we would get together and she’d come over and I’d give her rides home and that sort of thing.
Mom felt a lot of guilt, too. Because the truth is, she treated Paula poorly when she found out about Robert. Paula bought her in a gift once and Mom just gave it right back. She said, “Give it to your black boyfriend.” And so later she kept asking, “Why did I do that? Why did I? Why didn’t I just let her be?”
But I thought this was all made up when Paula moved into that house with Debby and started seeing Lonnie. Mom liked Lonnie. She didn’t understand his hair and his leather headband, but she liked him. She says, “Oh, remember him with that hair? He was the cutest boy, and he had the prettiest white teeth.”
We just heard bits and pieces. Like this guy that was on the bridge. I think it was the police who told us about that. Her car was stopped on the bridge and this man stopped to help her. The hood was up. I can’t remember if he got the car started or left and the car still wasn’t running. But he came forward and told the police that he had seen her there. This was after the body was found and that was in all the papers. I guess he didn’t have a reason to make any connection to it until then.
I also heard, in the scuttlebutt of all this stuff, and this wasn’t right away and this was no policeman who said it. I don’t know how or where I heard this. Maybe someone told my mom and my mom told me. It was that Paula wanted to get an abortion and the people, whoever it was, they told her they would get in touch with her. She had to be ready in a moment’s notice. That when they called, she had to be ready to go. And they think that’s what that phone call was. “You need to come to such-and-such a place now.”
My mom told me that they think it was that house that used to be behind the Boston Fish Market. That there was a chiropractor by the junior high school, I think his name was Spurgeon or Sturgeon or something like that. Paula went there to see him and something happened and she started bleeding a lot, and so he sent the nurse over to the hospital to get blood. But can you just walk into the hospital and get blood? So that thing always sounded wrong. That was one of those things that didn’t make any sense to me.
The abortion story didn’t come from Debby. I got that from my mom. And I think my mom got it from just people talking. “Well, this is what we heard.”
Plus, Paula never even took a purse. She never took anything with her. Maybe she was told not to. I don’t know what she thought she was going to do. How she was going to pay, if it was true, what they said they thought she was going to do. The abortion thing I mean. Unless that was all wrong. Unless she just took money to buy cigarettes. If that’s why she went out, like Debby said.
The reason we thought it was something else is because she was tied. Why would you tie somebody up unless you were going to do something bad to them? And then somebody threw in the mix that she was big and gangly, and her little arms and legs would be flipping all over. It would be easier for them to handle her if they tied her up. But I always thought something really bad happened to her, because she was tied up. In my mind’s eye, that’s what I saw. If she bled to death or had this thing or whatever, why would they tie her up? So I, in my mind, I thought something really bad happened to her.
They said they went through every little fold of that dress that she had on, and they could find no blood. They couldn’t find anything—no knife marks on the bones or bullet ricochets or anything like that. They checked to see if she had been strangled, too, but there wasn’t any evidence of that, either.
At first I thought that Robert had something to do with what happened to her. That maybe he was mad because she was dating Lonnie Bell and he got mad and smacked her a little too hard. That was in my mind, and that he had somebody to help him, and then the whole area down there was hiding the whole thing. But then people said how he just cared too much for her, to do something like that. That there was no way that he could have hurt her.
My brother Tim has said that his only real memory of Paula is when she dropped by the house one day. She pulled up in a car and had bought him a rubber ball. But they weren’t there when the missing part happened. Mom had sent them with a friend to the cabin on the river for the summer. Just to keep them, I guess, because she wasn’t in a good frame of mind to properly feed them and such. I mean, she was just a basket case, and she didn’t want them hearing all the stuff that was going on, either.
Maybe that was because she was ashamed, I don’t know. I never felt any shame about it, though. Not with the black boyfriend thing, because there were a lot of people doing that at the time. I didn’t agree with it. It’s not something I would have ever done, but to each his own. And as far as the shame about the abortion, in my mind, I never let myself really believe that was what happened anyway. Maybe because I didn’t like to think that I wasn’t there for her. Why didn’t she ask me for my help? Why didn’t she confide in me? So, I got to thinking, if that’s the case, if it was an abortion, she would have. She would have asked me for help, or at least she would have told me about it. And then nobody has given us the official word that that’s what happened. All that stuff we’ve heard second hand through different people here and there, so how do we know any of it’s even true? I was gone for how many years, and I moved back here, right away there’s somebody telling me this story about her laying in a basement for eight days. How could that person have known that? I don’t know. I asked, and he said, “Oh that’s just something I heard around the bars.”
And I can’t believe either that she just got in a car and drove there with nothing, and gonna drive herself home. And didn’t take the proper utensils that she’d need to clean herself up afterward. Or, maybe she did. Maybe they were in the car, in that squaw bag, and the bag got thrown in the river. Because that squaw bag never showed up.
But then why wouldn’t Debby Kellogg have had to know a little bit more about what happened? I think if I was living with somebody and they were going to do something that dramatic, they wouldn’t just say, “Can I borrow your car? I’m going to go get a pack of cigarettes.” And then she didn’t come home?
She would have fought for herself if she had to. If she was able to she definitely would have. Like the man at the car on the bridge. She would have been pouncing all over that guy. She was big. She was five eleven. She wore a size nine shoe. And she had a twenty-two inch waist. She didn’t go around bragging, but she was proud of that, and she worked hard to keep it. I think that checked out that the man on the bridge just tried to help her. I don’t think that turned into being anything.
I don’t think she had any enemies. Well, yeah she had to have, I guess. I mean, I don’t know if she had enemies or not, but somebody did her in.
Then somebody told me there was no phone at that house where she was living. But how could that be? Because I remember Kellogg telling us that the phone rang. Paula was downstairs playing music and hanging posters and Debby was in bed, and she said the light clicked on, and Paula said, “Can I borrow your car to go get a pack of cigarettes?” And then the light went off again. But, it seems to me if there wasn’t a phone I should have known that. Because how would we have talked to her?
Another reason I didn’t ever give the abortion story much credence was because—unless it was this spur of the moment thing that somebody said it was—if Paula knew this was happening, why in the world would she go to dinner with Lonnie? Why in the world would she go home and get comfortable and be hanging posters and whatever, knowing that she’s gotta go do whatever she’s gonna do? Or whatever she did? See, that was something that just didn’t fit with us. We just didn’t understand it. Or maybe it’s because that’s what we want to believe, that she went to buy a pack of cigarettes and somebody grabbed her off the street. That’s what I’ve always thought, even though I’ve heard these other things, too. And that could be because nobody’s definitely told me or given me more to go on, and I thought, well, if they know all that, why do they say it’s an unsolved case? Why didn’t they do anything. Why wasn’t anybody ever arrested?
Now I would almost rather that they proved that she died getting an abortion than to think she went to get cigarettes and somebody grabbed her and did horrible things to her and dumped her somewhere and we’re never going to know who that person is. But they’d have to prove it. Why couldn’t they prove it? Why didn’t they even try?
They never even questioned the doctor. His name’s out there all over town, and the police didn’t question him. That right there is what upsets me greatly. That’s pitiful. Did they think she wasn’t worth anything? Was he some big shot? Did he have power?
It just doesn’t make sense to me. I mean, what kind of detective work is that? It’s upsetting. It’s upsetting to think that they could have done more, but they didn’t. And I don’t know why.
A lot of times we would have to call to find out where the detectives were in their investigation. We’d call and ask, “Do you have any new information?” They never did. They weren’t forthcoming. They just kept saying it was unsolved. Except that my mom got some information somehow. There was a lot of talk about this doctor, Spurgeon or Sturgeon, the chiropractor guy, and I don’t know if Mom called down to the police and told them, “We heard about this,” or asked, “Can you check into this?” Or they called her and said, “We heard this, and we’re gonna check into this,” but however it went, they just always came back to us with the same thing, that they couldn’t prove anything. Or they didn’t have any information on that. Or if they did they never told us. Nobody sat down with us and said, “This is what we think. But we don’t know.”
Another one of the things that somebody said was that there was a nurse there, too. And something went wrong and Paula started bleeding really bad, and so the doctor sent the nurse across the street to the hospital to get blood transfusions. But can you walk into a hospital and say, “Hey, I need a couple pints of blood?”I don’t think so. That’s one reason I’ve always thought that the whole thing with the abortion just didn’t make sense.
I want to know, did she suffer? Did she know what was happening, or, if this really is what happened, did she just go to sleep? Don’t you, when you lose a lot of blood?
For many years I’ve always had so much regret, because I kept thinking if that was the car that was honking outside that night, and the lights were off… Did she want me? Was she trying to come over, just to say, “I need you to go with me?” And I thought if I had been up then maybe things would have worked out differently. I don’t know for sure that it was Debby Kellogg’s car out there, but as I laid there that night, before I knew any of this, and I looked up and I heard this car honking, I was thinking, “Well, there’s Paula,” or “There’s Paula and Kellogg.” Because Paula did drive Kellogg’s car every now and then.
But there I was, I had a newborn baby and she didn’t sleep at all. She was a real tiny little thing. And so I was upstairs in bed. I went to bed after the news, so it was somewhere like ten-thirty or eleven. And I heard the honking, and from my bed you could look out the window, and I thought, “Oh, those girls, what do they want?” Before I knew anything, my thought was that it was them and that it was that car. And then afterwards, I kept saying, “Why wasn’t I up?” Maybe if I was up she would have stopped. Maybe she was coming to get me and the lights were off and so she just went on by herself.
George Steinke said that he and Kathy McVay and Paula and the group used to go down and get served in that bar down in the Unique Motel, but I never went. George said the last time he saw Paula was at his wedding and that, but there was a group of them, and he named all these people, and they used to go there underage, because they could drink there.
And George is the one that told me, “If you want to know what happened to your sister, you need to talk to the Abodeelys.”
Joe Abodeely was the one that owned the Unique Motel. Somebody told me stuff about that, that prostitutes went there, and strippers and such and I remember asking “Well, if she was going for an abortion, how would Paula even know who to call for something like that?” And they said, “Well, all you had to do, you could find out at the Unique Motel.”
Ever since I was three years old, I wanted to be a policeman. And that’s how it started. I joined the police department in 1953 and I was promoted detective in 1961 and lieutenant in 1977 and captain in 1979. And then I retired in 1983.
But it was different then. You didn’t have DNA and you didn’t have a lot of things they’ve got now. You had to do police work back then. You talked to people and investigated and spent time. You didn’t take it to a laboratory and then they told you who did it. They didn’t do that back then.
I don’t know if the murder rate was higher. I don’t believe it was. Sometimes you didn’t have any; sometimes you had four in a year. Most murders are committed by relatives or friends. Once in a while you have a robbery or something where a shooting took place.
For example, we had one time, Ken Millsap and I worked a robbery where the kid held up a filling station. He had a shotgun and the guy got up from the chair, and the kid backed up so his arm hit the pop case and the gun went off. He really didn’t mean to kill the guy, but he did, and that was the end of that for him. But mostly it was family type stuff or acquaintances killing one another. Nothing just random. You didn’t have that then.
Ken and I worked together for I don’t even know how many years. A lot of them. We were a team. We got along well together, and we worked well together. He was the kick-down-the-door-and-go-for-them type, and I was, “Just a minute, let’s think about this.” So we kind of balanced each other out, and it worked good that way.
Sometimes I was the good cop and sometimes he was. We had to play that occasionally. Some people don’t understand that, but it works. And I’m surprised it worked, but it did. And who gets to be what, that just depends. You never know. Depends how it works out. Usually you have a suspect, and two people are working with him. For some reason the guy will ally with one officer as opposed to the other. And then from there you decide who’s the good cop and who’s the bad cop. I don’t know why that happens. I guess it’s just human nature.
We did a little bit of work on the Paula Oberbroeckling case, but we didn’t get nowhere with it. She came up as a missing person, and nobody knew nothing about it. She just left her apartment and she didn’t take anything with her. No purse or nothing, and she just left. I think she had a roommate, but the roommate didn’t have any idea where she went. She just disappeared. No clues, nothing. Nobody knew nothing. We talked to her friends, but they just said, “I don’t know.” And nobody knew a thing about it.
We asked about a boyfriend, but nobody knew anything about a boyfriend. We asked was she pregnant, and nobody knew if she was pregnant, or nobody knew anything about her. Just one day she wasn’t there and that was all there was to it. And it was at night. She left at night. That was the only different thing, you know. No notes. No nothing. She just left.
We didn’t know nothing about her dating that black kid, either. Nobody said anything about it. That was the thing, when she disappeared, if somebody would have said something about that, then we’d know places to go. Being there in the detective bureau for all those years, we had informants, in the black community as well as the white community, who would talk to us. And so we could have gone to some of them. But as it was, we had no idea. No clue at all.
You had some people in the black community, they just weren’t satisfied with anything and could cause you trouble at every turn of the hand, but the majority of them were hardworking people, and they did their business and that was it. So there was no real race problems that I knew of. We had two or three black taverns. They went there and they didn’t cause trouble and we didn’t sent anyone down there to cause trouble. That’s the way it was.
I knew a lot of black people, and I met them through my job, and I treated them decent and as a result of that I could go down there anytime. Many times I went into black taverns by myself, no problem. I always knew somebody in there. “Hey Charlie, how ya doin?”And as soon as that went down, nobody said anything, because I was a friend of theirs. And that’s the way it was. We didn’t harass them or poke on them or nothing.
That’s the best thing, to try to get along with people. Just because you’re a policeman don’t mean you’re out to break somebody’s back. You’re out to keep people safe. And Ken was the same way. We just got along with people real well.
I don’t think I could handle police work now, though. Because, first of all you’ve gotta be highly educated. You can’t get on the police force without at least a two-year college degree. And you can’t get a promotion without a four-year degree, and you can’t be a captain without a Master’s degree. Now explain to me what the hell that’s all about. The robbers are robbing the same, rapists are raping the same, killers are killing the same. There ain’t no difference, but all of a sudden you got to be a scholar to know what’s what. We had a gentleman on the department who had a master’s degree in Chinese art. I don’t know what that meant, but he did, and they couldn’t promote him fast enough.
And on more than one occasion when I was working days, they’d send me to the county jail to talk to somebody about something, and I’d say, “But so-and-so already talked to him.” And they’d tell me, “Well, he didn’t get anything outa him.” So, I’d go over there and sit down with the guy and shoot the breeze with him a little bit. Pretty soon he’d tell me everything I wanted to know. I said, “Why didn’t you tell all this to the guy last night?”He said, “Because I didn’t know what the hell he was asking me.” He said, “I didn’t understand him.”
See, I always wanted to be a cop, and I knew I could be a good one, too. I mean, that’s all I ever thought about. I started out as a sheet metal worker. I got my journeyman’s card, too, because I did a four year apprenticeship, and then I went in the army for two years, and then I got out and I went back to sheet metal work. Then as soon as I could I took the police test. That’s all I ever wanted. I mean, that was my aim. And luckily I got what I wanted, and I never once remember not wanting to go to work. I was just that interested in it. Vacation time come around, I didn’t want to go. One time I took two weeks vacation at once. That about drove me crazy. After that, I’d take one week at a time, if that.
And this is all because many years ago, when I was just a little guy, my mother and grandfather, they come from Mechanicsville, and they had a marshal down there, Charlie Young was his name. And of course we lived here in Cedar Rapids, but every now and then he’d come up to visit us. He had that badge on him—to me it looked like the size of a garbage can lid. And he was the marshal. I just admired that guy so much, and I thought, boy, that’s it.
Then I had a couple run-ins with the police myself when I was a kid, and they were decent to me. They didn’t cause me no trouble, and I thought, well that’s the way to be a policeman. And that’s the way I tried to be.
One time another kid and I got involved in developing pictures, and we wanted to get an enlarger. And this guy had an enlarger for sale for twelve dollars. He came over to my house, and of course we didn’t have twelve dollars. This buddy of ours, he was eighteen, and he had money, so he said, “I’ll buy it for you and you can pay me back.” He had a twenty dollar bill, and he didn’t have no change. There was a shop down on F Avenue and he was open late, so these two other guys I was with, they ran down there. And I mean literally, they ran. They went in and said, “Nate, will you change this twenty for us?”And he said, “Well, sure.” So, he gave them the change, and they ran back out again. Now these two policemen were out there, and they were just curious about these boys running in and out, and so they went inside to talk to Nate. Asked, “What’d those kids want?”He said, “They came in with a twenty dollar bill and wanted change.” And they said, “Well, where’d they get it?”He said, “Well, I don’t know. None of my business, I guess.” Next thing, those policemen came up to my house and my mother hollered upstairs for me. She said, “Son, somebody’s down here to see you.” So I went down there and explained to them what the story was. One of them’s name was Chuck Shepherd and Pete Funky was the other one there with him.
Chuck says, “Well, it don’t sound good to me.”
And me, I’m sweating bullets. I don’t know what the hell he’s gonna do. I was about thirteen years old.
And so then Pete says, “Naw, they’re all right, Chuck. They sound good to me.”
He’s shaking his head. “Ah, I dunno,” he says. “We better take them down to headquarters.”
And of course that was all a game, but I didn’t know it then. And so Pete finally won. They let us go. I admired that guy, Pete. And he lived to be a hundred and four years old. He died here just about three years ago. And I always worshiped that man. Because he was just the nicest guy in the world. Chuck was, too, but it was his night to be the bad guy.
Me, I always tried to understand people, but when they get involved with the police, well, first of all, half of them are scared to death, and the thing to do is just calm their fears. Something like, “Hey relax. Nothing bad’s gonna happen here. Let’s talk about this.” And that’s the way you do it.
Even murderers are people, when you come down to it. They try not to be, but they are. And a lot of people kill people once and then never do it again, no matter what happens. But the fact is, they’re still murderers.
We had a guy one time, he was with a bunch of them going from state to state around the country, and they had a bunch of checkbooks out of a place in Chicago they broke into, and they were passing these checks. We caught them in one of the stores downtown. They were all of them bad guys, but this one guy that I talked to, he said, “I don’t know why I got mixed up with these damn fools anyway.” He said, “I’m not a check writer.” He said, “I’m a killer.” He said, “I’m a hired killer.”
And I believed it, because he was just as cold as he could be, and then later he got mad at me for some reason or other. He got sent to prison. Got twenty-five years, and the justice sentencing him was Reilly. So pretty soon, about once every few months this killer guy would send a petition to Judge Reilly to have him and me arrested for something or other, and Reilly used to call me, he’d say, “Hey, Charlie, I’m supposed to arrest you.”
I said, “What’d I do now?”
“Just the same thing. He’s mad at you. He wants us both arrested. I’ll take care of it.”
He must have done that for about four years. Sent letters to get us arrested. Sent them straight to the guy he wanted arrested. That’s about how dumb he was.
That was back before all the drugs came in, too. We didn’t have much in the way of drugs. Marijuana, and that pretty much was it. And I don’t know about heroin, to speak of. Because it was about that time they started developing a drug squad and they’d handle all that, because you couldn’t do everything. You gotta do that and do that only or you’re not gonna get nothing done. I mean, you’d have to work round the clock.
We had a kid passed out in the middle of the A Avenue viaduct once. He was bleeding from the nose, and we took him to the hospital and they found out what he had in his system was this powder they used to make if you had asthma. You’d light that and burn it and inhale it, and that’d clear your lungs out. “Asthmador,” they called it. And this kid had been putting that stuff in capsules and eating it. And it just damned near tore him to pieces.
And then years and years ago they didn’t have antifreeze, so you’d put alcohol in your car to keep it from freezing over in the winter. And guys would drain the alcohol out of cars and strain it through a loaf of bread and drink it.
Then, too, we had a couple of guys over at the Rock Island yard, were drinking that rubbing alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol. Both of them went blind.
But it wasn’t until we started getting the influx of the Chicago crowd that the drugs really got started here. Those guys would get hot there and they’d have to run someplace and lay low for a while, so they’d come here. Because we had a reasonably large black community, large enough so they could find friends who would hide them, and this sort of thing. So a lot of the people arrested for murder or something else, they were from Chicago. And they’d either get in trouble with the law or get in trouble with other drug dealers. Get outa town, like that.
We were a good force. We didn’t have the kind of corruption that you get in some places. Sure, there were guys on the police department who weren’t honest. I mean, some people lost their job for doing something that wasn’t right, but overall, it’s just too much pride in being a police officer. From my point of view, anyway. I was a traffic cop for a while, and it wouldn’t be unusual to stop an Illinois car for speeding, and he’d give you the driver’s license and there’d be a twenty dollar bill wrapped up in it. Looked at me like I was stupid. But that was the way they did in Illinois. And when we arrested out-of-town speeders, you had to take them to jail, and they had to post a bond. Well, you know, he’d offer you a hundred bucks. I said, “Don’t talk to me.” You’d take him in and his bond would be twenty-five dollars. He said to me, “You’re stupid.” And I said, “Maybe so, but I’m honest.”
The body wasn’t found until late in the fall. Not much left of her by that time. I imagine the dentist identified her because there was nothing else there except some blond hair and skeleton. Some of the bones were missing, too. I imagine animals got at it. Which, you know, that usually happens. But that was how we come upon that. And we still had no one, no clues, no information.
When they found the body, Ken and I got called in. So we started from there and we got an identification, and then we talked to her mother and her grandmother. Because I knew her grandmother real well. She worked at a jewelry store downtown. They did a lot of pawn work there, and we’d go to the pawn shops every month, and that’s how we got to know her. I’d known her for several years.
And I’m sure there was some boyfriend or another, but we didn’t have any information on that. Nobody knew nothing. Everybody kept their mouth shut, for some reason or other. Girlfriends, nobody knew nothing about it. I mean, I’m sure they did, but, you know, it’s a function of the old “I don’t want to get involved” thing. That happens. And how are you gonna find out? You know damned well a body shows up, nobody’s gonna take any credit for anything. “I don’t want to get involved in it.”
So it was that nobody that we ever talked to ever had any idea what would have happened. Whether she would have went away, run away, something like that. But she didn’t take no clothes or nothing. She just disappeared and that was that. We had no clues at all. Nothing. Not even any rumors about what might have happened.
Nobody knew nothing,
I didn’t even know she had a black boyfriend. That never came into my area, for some reason or other. Later we come to find out he wasn’t around that night anyway. He was over at a party at the Ely house with a fellow named Butch Hudson who was Senator Ely’s foster son. But John Ely would alibi anybody, I guess. They were big people, the Elys. They were Quaker Oats people, as I recall. Ely’s a big rich family. In fact, that big apartment house, Blair House, out on First Avenue, that was built on the Ely estate, what was the Ely mansion at that time.
And John Ely, he was a real liberal. Real liberal. But he was straight. Straight arrow. There was a guy that got the hanging, the death penalty out of Iowa. Because he called this doctor up in Dubuque, said “Come to my motel, I’m sick, I need help.” The doctor got there, and the guy kidnapped him. Took his drugs and murdered him. And we caught him and hung him.
And then John Ely, he had the damndest letter in the paper. It made you want to cry. How bad it was that we hung that guy. Didn’t say a damned thing about the doctor or his wife and three kids he’d left behind. He didn’t care about them. Just that poor old guy they hung.
Joe Abodeely, though, he was something else. He was a kind of a guy that if he could make ten dollars by being honest, he’d take five and do it crooked. He had a key club downtown, and this was just before we got liquor by the drink. Well, Joe Abodeely was selling liquor by the drink for two years before it got legal. And we’d raid the place. Take all his liquor, and he’d get madder than hell and go through all the courts, till he finally got the liquor back. It was quite a thing with Joe. And then he had a motel, too, right across from St. Luke’s hospital, and he was running a prostitution ring out of there. We knew that and one time we got one of the girls, and it turned out, she’d been keeping a black book. Believe you me, there was some nervous people around town for a while. But that stuff goes through the County Attorney’s office. It wasn’t our business after we’d taken it in and handed it over. There must have been so many powerful people in that book, there was enough pressure on the City Attorney and he kind of slid it under the table. I mean, I don’t know that for a fact, but I can’t think of any other reason why it wasn’t prosecuted.
Joe was a good businessman. He had a lot of money. Not all of it honest, but he had a lot of money. He always thought the police were picking on him. Not that he didn’t deserve it, but he didn’t like them picking on him anyway. One time he was on trial for something and his mother fainted in the courtroom, and there was a big todo about that and somebody grabbed some papers and threw them off the second floor of the courthouse in the main lobby. And then there was this so-called preacher in town, too, Father George, and he’s the one that raised hell all the time about us picking on Joe Abodeely. I don’t know if he was Syrian or Arabic or what he was, but this Father George, he thought Joe was a saint. And he was a big guy, real big. Impressive-looking guy with that big beard. He must have weighed about two-seventy. He was a big guy. But, he took up for Joe.
As for what happened to that black book, I don’t know if it was protection or what it was. It’s just that there were some pretty big names in there, and I’m sure that they didn’t want them to get out. Because of a lot of reasons. And it didn’t matter, because, who cares? I don’t care whether a guy goes to a prostitute. That’s his business, not mine. It ain’t him, it’s her. That’s why I don’t understand when they send a lady policeman out to entice a guy and he propositions her and they arrest him. I don’t understand that. It don’t make sense to me. I mean a human being’s a human being.
I was on the Cedar Rapids police force for thirty years before I retired in 1980. Heart attack. I was fifty-five then. And had bypass surgery and took a medical retirement. That was back before drugs really got a trench hold in the city and things were still relatively sane. After that I started to not really recognize law enforcement. After drugs really got in there, it was changing so much. But in the 1970s, it was just kind of beginning and it was pretty standard crime that we were dealing with.
We’ve never had an extensive murder rate here in Cedar Rapids. If we ever had two or three a year, it was unusual. And then a good share of what we were dealing with would be family related, or that type. Once in a while you get a really good whodunnit, like Martinko, or some of those. But they were rare.
The Paula Oberbroeckling one—that’s still an open case. We would have solved that with today’s technology, though. In fact we got a pretty good scenario, which we had really kind of off the record confirmed of what really happened.
She came up as a missing person. And by and large, if it’s a just a missing person, a teenage girl or whatever, unless there’s extenuating circumstances, you don’t get real excited about it. For a while. Because probably ninety-something percent of them are runaways or something like that. If they’re not all right, well, the other ten or five percent sometimes turn out like Paula. But you can’t do much about it to start. You wouldn’t have the manpower, number one, to work a missing person early on, and what would you do to begin with anyway?
I was a homicide detective at that time, and so I wouldn’t be having to do with just a run-of-the-mill missing person. We had a couple of policewomen—which were probably the first in the state— and they had assigned them working missing persons for a while when they first came on. But normally, with a missing person, you just put out a “Be on the lookout for” to the uniform men and unless you have some lead—like, maybe she’s seen at some guy’s house or something—well then all you can do is keep an eye out for her. If you think she might be over with somebody in Oak Hill, well then you’d go over there and see. But otherwise you wouldn’t do much. You couldn’t.
When you have a homicide, though, then you can go to work. You just start from scratch and see where it takes you. I’d get called in, and I would go to the crime scene and interview, number one, the uniform people that were there and, number two, any witnesses. We’d gather any information we could, and then we’d go from there. It all starts with the crime scene.
When somebody gets shot and you get called in, and you’re working with the fresh meat, well that’s one thing. Whereas if it’s months old before you even know it, well then the opportunity for the physical evidence is lessened greatly. We didn’t have much. Not even much of a body left, after so much time had passed. Maybe we could have done more. I don’t know. Like I say, with modern technology, maybe before it got to that point, within the first week or so, we could have done something. I don’t know. It’s problematic when you have a crime like this one was: old when you discover it. I mean, it’s doubly hard, and a good share of crimes are committed by husbands, wives, family, friends. Which makes them basically easier. But it’s these other ones that are tough. And that’s just how it is.
There was this kind of abortion ring that we knew that was performing abortions, but the Joe Abodeely one was different than the one that Sturgeon was involved in.
I mean there was a guy lived over on Oakland Road. In fact I worked on that, too. I went to Maryland and interviewed a witness there that had had an abortion here and moved to Maryland. And that was in regard to a body found in some parking lot in town.
Joe owned the Unique Motel, over by the hospital. And in my thirty years in the department, I had a longstanding thing going with Joe Abodeely. I mean, it was always something. He liked to think he was some kind of a gangster. Like a Chicago or New York type, but the truth was, he was just a little fish. Still, he always had something going on. One thing or another.
He had this combo, he played piano, and he had a band, and they were pretty good, really. He wanted everybody to think that he had big time connections, he always portrayed that. But it wasn’t so.
1970 was the first summer after my freshman year of college, and I was working at Quaker Oats. I did a 40-hour work week there, and I was pretty much set on playing college basketball, so a lot of my free time was spent in the gym. Robert had kind of faded away from the basketball scene a little bit, so he and I had kind of really split after one year of college. We’d kind of gone our different ways. I was focused on being an Iowa basketball player at the time, so I was either at Quaker or in the gym working out. Sometimes at Washington, sometimes at Coe, sometimes down in Iowa City.
People were talking about how Paula had come up missing, and that Robert was really concerned and scared and all that. Hell, it was just a mindblower for all of us. Some people thought Robert might have had something to do with it and that bothered him as well as just the fact that he’d lost his girlfriend. People were looking at him as a possible culprit of this thing and he was swearing up and down that he wasn’t. So he was pretty wacked out about it all. A lot of conversations and thoughts were going around in the community, if she was pregnant and was she pregnant by these other guys that she had been going with or had been seen with on occasions.
We talked about it all summer long.
I didn’t know about the pregnancy, but I was always more than certain that Robert had nothing to do with Paula being missing. I thought maybe she had ran away or something like that. That crossed my mind, because her parents were still fighting her and I thought maybe she just got in a car and left, just kind of got away or something, but that he could have had anything to do with what happened to her never crossed my mind. He and Paula, they had some arguments, but never anything physical. And Robert didn’t have that kind of heart, that he could do anything like that.
My birth control was prophylactics. You always had to make sure you were packing a rubber. That was what we did. And pull it out. Take your chances. The girls weren’t popping birth control pills. It wasn’t an issue with us as 17, 18, 19-year-olds. You don’t think about those things.
Someone tried to tell me that Debby Kellogg had a baby by me. I’m sure that wasn’t the case, because I wasn’t going with her at the time. She had a black baby, but I wasn’t seeing her at that time.
And if Debby Mitchell had got pregnant, I don’t know what would have happened.
I never met Debby’s parents. Never never met them. If they didn’t truly accept our relationship at first, they later on knew who I was, and it was a little bit more receptive. Her dad knew that I was a basketball player and I was in college. I think that might have carried some weight.
But I don’t think I would have quit school or anything like that. Find a job and go up on my career. And I don’t think I would have abandoned her either. I mean, I don’t think that’s what I was about. If I would have survived my mother’s ass-whooping, I think I’d just have continued to go to school and things like that.
She probably would have had the baby. I don’t know if she would have kept it or not, because she would have still been in high school at the time, but I don’t see her ever wanting to abort a baby. And I don’t see her parents doing that either. As I say, I didn’t know them that well, but I know they were kind-hearted people. They learned to accept me a little bit later on in the relationship. So I guess if I had to try to draw a picture of that I think that she would have probably had the baby and they would have probably put the baby up for adoption and allowed her to continue schooling. That probably would have been the end of our relationship, but I think she probably would have had the child and gave it up for adoption. That’s my assumption.
And if my mother would have found out, too, she wasn’t going to have that abortion crap, either. Heck, I barely knew what an abortion was at that time. What happened to Paula was my first experience about abortion. I didn’t know much about that. Just that it was illegal. And in our community, if you got pregnant, then, your life is gonna change a little bit. Go out and find a job, and that was the mentality. My sister was the class of 74. She had a child while she was in high school, and then had another one soon afterward. But there was never any talk about abortion. I know my mother wouldn’t have taken to any of that stuff. You laid in that bed, then you were going to have to go ahead and deal with it.
So, I knew it was foul play. Right from the minute I heard it, I just knew. Because Paula was a very attractive young lady, and, hell, I just knew there was foul play involved. And so it became pretty ugly, in my mind, that foul play was a part of this thing.
I don’t know how I know about that abortion story. Debby Kellogg and I hadn’t communicated for a couple of years. So, I don’t remember having any conversation with her about this, ever.
I was still with Debby Mitchell then. She had an apartment, and I think she and Debby Buchheister ended up staying together, but when I came back after my first year of college, I guess I just went a totally different way. I wasn’t thinking that I was too good, but I just had some things I had to do and you know, the Debbys and the Roberts and a lot of other things just kind of went a different direction for me. So I’m sure I never had any conversation with Debby Kellogg after maybe my senior year in high school.
I wasn’t making it up, though. I don’t think it was in the newspaper. I’m sure someone had told me. Because in the community the talk from people was that she had been pregnant, and nobody knew whether it was Robert or somebody else, but that she had sought out some doctor that Joe Abodeely knew to get an abortion, and things didn’t go right and she pretty much bled to death, and they took her out in the woods and chained her up and left her for the animals, I guess.
I remember, too, and I don’t know where I heard it from, I think that one of the stories that was going around was that she had been raped.
Joe Abodeely was a Lebanese guy that was into drugs and prostitution and all those things. That was his reputation in the community at the time. And she was pregnant. She went to him, or somehow got to him. He got her help and something went wrong. She bled to death and they took her out into the woods. I can’t remember how it ended. If anyone was ever charged with it or not. But that was the talk in the community, how you get out and you just hear this from people.
And the name Joe Abodeely meant something to everybody in the community. I mean, we all knew of Joe Abodeely. I didn’t know him on a personal basis at all, but it was just one of those names that you’d hear. He owned a hotel that was up by St. Lukes at the time. And there was supposedly prostitution going on there and of course they had all the drugs and things like that. That was his reputation throughout the community.
Come to find out, he was bringing African American musicians into town to play in his clubs, and Al Jarreau was one of them. I was into Motown about then. Temptations and Four Tops and all that. So I didn’t know that about Joe Abodeely, but I know that he was a very influential person, and it doesn’t surprise me that he was bringing in musicians like that.
Of course there was drugs. It was 1970. I drank and smoked some marijuana, and just did what everybody else was doing. I mean, I wasn’t into that LSD stuff, or the speed. I didn’t do any of that. But marijuana, a little hash, a little coke. That was it. That was it. That was about all.
And Paula and Robert, they were pretty much into the same thing. They drank a little and they smoked a little, like everybody did. It was just rare that you would find someone that didn’t do any of that.
And of course Iowa City was the hub of it all. All the drugs.
Her family was just devastated, the day we found out that they had found the body. I think it was in November. Of course then we had to deal with, was that her or was it not her? And yes, it was. Now back then in 1970, I don’t know about DNA. I don’t know why they didn’t do more to find out what really happened to her. They didn’t do much other than just, “Yeah, we found a body that’s decomposed, terribly decomposed.” And supposedly nobody could look at her or anything like that. So there was just the pictures and the memories.
It was one thing to have one of our fellow students get killed in a car accident. “Yeah, we saw him yesterday and he died in a car accident.” Tragic. Tragic. But the six months or so that it took to actually find out about Paula, that was something else. Not knowing. “Is she alive or is she dead?” “Well, we just think she ran away.” The speculation ran rampant. If she was pregnant, she ran away and maybe she’ll be back someday.
But then to find out exactly what happened. The magnitude of it didn’t just hit me, it hit the whole city. I mean, this was Cedar Rapids, Iowa, population 100,000 people. Things like that didn’t happen, even if it did. Especially in 1970, even with everything that was going on in the world, you just never expected it in Cedar Rapids. We’re a small town, and I’m sure that it devastated more than just myself.
Like Kathy, she took it real hard. She and I were going to junior college and Kirkwood and it was just even hard to do anything. You know, go to school and work, do what we had to do. We had a real hard time. In fact, I do believe that all of a sudden our friendships for each other were different. All our friends, everything was different. Everybody that hung around together started going in their own directions and our group was not there anymore. Our senior class, that we did everything together—I mean we went everywhere together—that group just kind of dispersed and everybody kind of went their own ways, and you don’t want to say that was just because of Paula, but it sure did hit us, all of us, real hard. Real reality check.
There was a lot of gossip. Everybody was talking. Everybody. All of a sudden this beautiful woman disappears. Where is she? She’s got to show up. People were telling stories to try to find some meaning. We have to have a reason why. I mean something happened. You don’t ever think murder. You never think that. But she was obviously murdered.
After Paula came up missing, I did have an altercation with Robert. I told him, “Tell me the truth and don’t lie to me. You know we can get through this if we have to.” The guy was born and raised right across the street from me. I went all the way through elementary, through Junior High and High School with him, and so when she came up missing, my altercation was simply face-to-face with him. “You better not be lying. You better, if you know something, you need to tell us. Right now.” And his standard answer, solid answer, never wavered once, “I don’t know anything. I would never do anything to hurt that girl.” I said, “Because if you did, something’s gonna happen to you. And you know as well as I know, we will find you and something will happen.”
She was home, she went to dinner with Lonnie, she went to this, and she did this and then all of a sudden, supposedly got a phone call. But my understanding is that there wasn’t a phone in the house. So what happened? Why all of a sudden is she home and then leaving? To go to get cigarettes? Never took her purse and had cigarettes in her purse, so how do you put all that together?
I did not know Lonnie Bell, and that’s another secret that she kept from me. I did not know that she was dating Lonnie Bell when Kathy and I got married. I wouldn’t even recognize him if he walked in. Paula was very good at keeping secrets, obviously, because she was around myself and my wife all the time. As much as we could be.
But Paula was a doer of her own, and my honest opinion is that she would not have told her sister that she was pregnant. If she got into a problem she would solve it herself. I think that based on if she was pregnant, and if she was pregnant by Robert, my opinion would be that she would not have told anybody. She would have taken her own steps and measures to take care of it. Just based on what I knew about her. And if she was going to tell somebody, I would have thought she would have told either myself or my wife at the time. We were really close. We hung out together all the time. Or I thought. But there it is again, secrets that I never dreamed of.
We never thought about getting pregnant. All we thought about was having fun. And we didn’t use condoms. I don’t even know if there was such a thing as a birth control pill then. If there was, it was, you know, naïve to me. I had no idea. It was just: pull it out. Wing it. We were doing it and good luck. Never thought about the consequences, ever.
Sex was the thing to do. In the sense that in my junior and senior year it was, “How many girls could I bop?” And the girls weren’t saying no. They thought it was pretty cool. too. You know, “I was with so-and-so last night.” “Oh really?” I don’t know what to call it. Was it a trend? It was just a cool thing, I guess.
And the worst thing that could happen is you could get pregnant, but then obviously there were alternatives. Some got married, some had abortions, some just left. They just went away, off into la-la-land, and you never saw them. I don’t ever remember a whole lot of them getting pregnant, but we did think Kathy was. I was out of town. I had a thing in Minneapolis and she called me, she said she thought she had an abortion. No, not an abortion, a miscarriage. Now that I think about it, maybe it was she had an abortion. I wasn’t there. She told me she was pregnant and then she told me she had a miscarriage. So we got married. The wedding was already all planned, so we just went on with it anyway.
There was a place called the Unique Motel, up by St. Luke’s Hospital. There was prostitution, believe it or not. There was Mafia. I mean, I know one guy in particular that was in the Mafia at that time. Don Geater. He was living out of Peoria, dealing into Cedar Rapids. But anyway, there was prostitution in there at the Unique. I’m sure there was drugs and there was a bar there. I actually drank there at the age of seventeen, which of course was illegal.
They built the motel for families to stay there while they were in the hospital. Well, but it turned into more than that. Much more than that.
It was owned by the Abodeelys which was a very big name as far as property owners in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Joe Abodeely in particular, he owned a lot of businesses, and he was into a lot of stuff. It maybe wasn’t known that well, but there was stuff going on in Cedar Rapids that you would have thought would be going on in Chicago. Such as, the drugs and the prostitution and the laundering of money and the gambling.
All I know is that there was the Unique Motel and that there was a ring of abortions that went on there. Now how they preyed on young people, I don’t know. I mean, there could have been hundreds of abortions done there.
I believe Joe Abodeely went to jail, too. Abortions, stuff like that. I believe that’s the major thing he did and I believe that was coming right out of the Unique Motel. Again, this is only what I believe. Did I know it for a fact? No. That’s just what I speculated. That it was an abortion gone wrong. Something like that.
So, number one, I didn’t think Robert killed her. Number two, I thought that she had an abortion gone wrong. What I imagined happened was, she’s in the abortion clinic up there, and it goes wrong and now she’s bleeding extensively, so they pretty much dispose of her immediately. Take her body and dump it over there where they dumped it, where she was found. And I don’t even know if she was bound and gagged or anything. I don’t know that. I guess she was wrapped in something obviously. But obviously when they found her she was so decayed and deteriorated that, you know, they just took it as a murder.
Now who dumped her body, I don’t know. I just thought that that’s how it happened. And that’s what I’ve always lived with.
The reality of it all, and the unfortunate part of it all—it all had to do with drugs. I think if you could take drugs out of the circumstances, life would have been a totally different thing for everybody. Fortunately for me, I didn’t get involved. I was one of the few. My wife didn’t get involved. I don’t know how, in detail, Paula was involved, but obviously I knew Debby Kellogg was involved. Big time involved.
LSD was the big thing. The needles. People would have track marks on their arms. Elbows. Shot themselves. I watched Claudia Maxwell shoot herself right in a back room of the school. At the time, I was thinking, “She’ll be okay. She’s just going through a phase.” Well, if I’m not mistaken, I think she overdosed and died from it. Years later. Never did get unhooked from it. But mostly it was needles and stuff. Paraphernalia. Real sad. Real sad.
Obviously, Robert Williams was involved, too. Supposedly his alibi was that he was at Butchie Hudson’s house for an all night party. I knew Butchie, but not very well. He grew up down in Oak Hill. He was quite the athlete, a big-time sports guy—wrestler, basketball, football. And then he lived with Senator Ely, and they were all doing drugs. It would have been alcohol consumption obviously. And it would have been LSD. Needles.
Me, I wasn’t a hippie. I had real short hair and I was clean cut and I went to work every day and I did everything I was supposed to do. Graduated from high school like I was supposed to, and then stayed out of the service by going to college. I’d had no intentions of going to college, but then my draft lottery number was a low number. Even though I was married, they were still going to draft me. So that changed my mind. Now I’m going to college. I went to junior college for two years and that’s the only reason why, because I’d had a really good year with Lucky Foods or Eagles and was making good money. You know, back then, you didn’t go to college to get a job. You got a job and then went to college.
So, I was straight-laced, and I had a nice haircut, and I never did drugs in my life. But all my friends did. Claudia Maxwell was big on heroin. James Hillsman, big on heroin. Heroin was a big deal. LSD. I don’t know how you correlate them together, but drugs were huge in school. Huge. Even in our little class of seventy-five to a hundred, drugs were big.
Maybe Paula tried to get drugs for somebody and got them and then didn’t have the money to pay. Something like that. This is a dog-eat-dog world and whether people want to believe it, Cedar Rapids has just as much crime as any city. It’s a short trip from Chicago to Cedar Rapids. Four hours. I called it little Chicago at times, because if you look in the paper and you read police reports, how many of these people are from Chicago? This didn’t just start happening. Them people have been coming here for years.
And the cops here, they were lame. They just did what they had to do to get the job done. In Paula’s case, they didn’t take the bull by the horns immediately, so it got to a point, once they found her body, that things had gone backwards so sour for them that they just tried to protect themselves and backed out of it.
There were no black cops, and they didn’t want racial tension. That was evident. I mean, Christ, you hardly never saw a cop down by my house. Hardly ever. If you did, it was in the daytime. Nighttime? You could walk the streets until midnight, one o’clock in the morning. Police? What are they? But we also didn’t create problems. We just were having fun.
A white girl down there, though, she would have been respected. She would have been taken care of. She would have walked into the black neighborhood and seen a few white people like me.
In fact, I think the reason that a white woman was attracted to a black person at that particular time was the black guys were very good to the women. And they got the sense of royalty. You know, “Shit, this guy’s taking care of me. This guy cares about me.” In all reality it wasn’t that way. They just perceived that. “Well, a white guy doesn’t take care of me like this. He doesn’t spend time with me. He doesn’t do this, he doesn’t do that.” So, she could have walked in there and been looked at as a kind of royalty, because there wasn’t a lot of white girls down there.
Just poor people, didn’t matter what the color. We didn’t have a lot. Christ, I come from a family of fourteen. What was my choice? I’m thirteen out of fourteen. What’s my chances in the world? You better go out and get it done. Hardworking family, and that’s all there was to it. But there wasn’t violence. We had a fight, we settled it ourselves, with our fists. We didn’t shoot people. Rarely did you hear of anything like that. That’s why this murder was so hard to believe.
Where was the ball dropped? Why didn’t we have a suspect? Was there anybody brought to the police station and said, “We think you killed her. You tell us you didn’t. You prove to us you didn’t.”? I don’t think that ever happened. Why not?
When I heard that they had found the body, my first thought was Lonnie Bell. When Steinbeck called me, I said, “You need to get a hold of him,” and I think I gave him some names down in the black community. too. The guys that I went to school with. Larry Buck, for example. I guarantee he knew everything that was going on down there.
It was pretty hush-hush down in the black community. You know people protect their own. It’s pretty normal in society. But I just know there was people who knew what happened to her.
It was that holiday season, when everybody was home for Christmas, when everybody gets together for a party here or a party there, and some guys had a house over on First Avenue, at about 15th Street, down about a half block, and there was a big party there. There was a lot of talk then, about what happened to Paula. “Oh, it had to be this person or it must have been that person.” I knew about Robert Williams, but all I remember is Lonnie Bell. That’s all I remember, and I heard that she started running around with some black guys, but I thought she was running with the black guys because of Lonnie. And maybe Lonnie wasn’t even associated with those guys. Maybe it was something different. But I thought that she got introduced to those black guys through Lonnie and Greg Karrick. Because I know Greg would go down there sometimes to try to secure drugs or pot or whatever. And there were a lot of guys down there in that neighborhood around the Brown Derby and down around that Cargill Plant down there. I know Larry Buck and some of those guys had a house down there.
We went down there once or twice to have Larry Buck buy beer, when we were in high school. He was the same age as we were, but if we wanted thirty cases, we’d give him the money, plus his commission, and he’d be back in fifteen minutes with thirty cases.
I know that Greg Karrick used Larry Buck for stuff. To buy beer. Everybody did. He was our main guy. And you know he was a real operator. Played basketball and played football. But he was real real black. Pencil thin, but real muscular, and he had a real small head, but he looked mean. He could just snap his fingers and guys would jump two feet. But me, I played football with him for two years, so I got to know him pretty good.
I always thought that when I heard about Paula and after them finding her body, I always assumed that it was Lonnie introducing Paula to friends that he ran with. Black people. And he introduced her to those people, and I always kind of thought that he was the blame for this, because he was the one that introduced her to that crowd. And had he not introduced her to that crowd, then that would have never happened. But maybe she got introduced to that crowd on her own, or through some girlfriends.
She’d been gone for four or five months, and so there wasn’t much left. It was almost skeletal, what they found. But somebody told me that when they found the skeleton—and I don’t know if she was in a bag or if there was a rope around her, or a noose—but her hands were tied. I remember hearing that. And I thought, man, something was going on.
I even remember trying to ask around a little bit. I didn’t spend a lot of time, or give due diligence to it, but I made inquiries where I could, but everybody was very close-lipped. There was no information flowing on the street about what had happened to her. None. The only time you’d really hear people talk about it was if you were at a party maybe and people had a few beers and maybe her name came up, but nobody knew any more than what I knew. I mean, it was just a guess.
I just never really liked Lonnie Bell. And Karrick was crazy. And Robert Williams, I didn’t really know him at all.
There was such a transition in 69 and 70, and by 71 you were either a redneck or you were a hippie. Me, I was a hippie, like everybody else. I don’t know to what depth of a hippie I was, but we were all long-hairs and I spent most of that time out in Colorado. We had a great time out there. There was drugs and a lot of people smoked pot, but it wasn’t like here in Iowa. I remember coming back one summer and I couldn’t believe the drugs. People shooting up. That’s what was scary.
Cedar Rapids became like a cesspool then, and I was really concerned for my younger brothers and sisters, but they got through it. My sister Julie, she kind of got into that a little bit. In fact, she was dating this guy and they ran away. He took her to some commune out in Oregon and my brother Dave and I went out and got her. And this kid was kind of stark and mysterious, and was just kind of sick, and he really got my sister Julie off. And the next thing we know, she’s gone.
It was a really dangerous time back then. We were still kind of red-blooded American boys at heart. I mean we were still rednecks at heart. Even though we were doing the hippie thing. But then there was a break point somewhere, when people graduated from high school. Where a lot of us got through that, unscathed. I mean, we didn’t get into the heroin and stuff like that.
But Paula’s class, there were some kids in that class that were like going off the deep end. I was up at Spirit Lake in 74, and I started a business and then in 75 I went back for the summer. I had a couple businesses then—a huarachi shop and an import shop and a little water ski shop—and I did some construction, too. Mostly it was just a big party. I watched a guy, a good friend of mine, at a party one night shoot up, and it scared the hell out of me. I mean, it really did. It scared me to death, that people would do that. And he ended up killing himself.
Skip Rowley was in a Corvette, and he hit that bridge on East Post Road. We went out there and looked at that. There was boots or shoes down in the ditch.
Steve Raher was killed, too. He was with Scott Harvey, and they flipped a car on the 30th Street Drive hill. The thing was upside down and gasoline was leaking out, and a policeman came up smoking a cigarette, and he put the cigarette down on the ground and it caught the gasoline and it burned. Burned Steve Raher alive. They couldn’t get the car turned over.
And then in my class there was Mark Wilson. His dad, Jim Wilson was a car salesman for years, at one of the car places here in town. Mark had white blond hair. I had that Pontiac Barracuda, and I’d given Jim Lideigh and Mark Wilson a ride back to Jim’s parents’ house up on Carroll Drive. I was going to go pick Paula up, but I had to drop them off, and Jim stayed, but Mark Wilson got a ride with some kid that was fifteen, that stole his parents’ car and was over there with Jim Leidigh’s younger brother. They got down Carroll Drive and where it makes that corner he flipped the car. It killed Mark Wilson. Instantly.
I can remember people fighting, too. When I was a junior, we went to a senior party up off Tama Street, way back in the woods. And these guys are drinking, and they decide to go toe-to-toe. One gets to take a punch as hard as he can, and then the other guy gets to take a punch as hard as he can. Well, those guys hit each other like nine or ten times before they quit. And I thought to myself, “Man, I’m not like that.” There’s no way. I mean those guys were crazy.
I heard a pastor one time speak. He didn’t believe in the total depravity of man. Just didn’t believe in it. And they had a late pregnancy. And they had a baby come. And the baby was really colicky. And his wife was sick a lot. She got up three or four times during the night to feed that baby and he finally said, “Honey, I’ll go. I’ll go do it.” So he went and got the baby. Patted it. Fed it. Put it back in its crib again. It was cold in their house and he just got back into bed and the baby started screaming again. He said he hit the doorpost to that baby’s room and he was so mad at that baby for screaming like that after it had woke him up five or six or seven times that he was ready to kill it. He then believed in the total depravity of man. That man was capable of doing anything to anybody at any time. Given the right circumstances or the right situation.
And I think that’s exactly what overcame somebody with Paula. Somebody. It was either a jealousy thing or it was a something else, but it had to be somebody connected with Lonnie Bell or it had to be somebody connected to Robert Williams. I mean, you got those two channels, where else can you go? Or it was somebody that was maybe part of that crowd that Robert Williams was part of and took a shine to Paula and Paula rejected him because even though she was running with those people or that crowd, Paula still had a sense of who she was and where she wanted to go, somewhat. And if somebody got spurned, who knows? What people could do. That pastor, who was a pastor, he was ready to kill his own baby! Why couldn’t somebody else become the same way. Get so enraged.
I know my own self. Get in a traffic jam sometime and you get a little old lady in front of you that just doesn’t quite move quick enough off the light. I holler. I don’t know if that would be enough to kill her, but we all go through fits in our life and episodes in our life, where we see a side of us that maybe doesn’t feel like it should be a part of our life. We all drag part of that around. We’re all capable of it. Anybody is. The only difference between a rational human being and somebody that loses control is that most of us are able to control it. We say no to it. It’s there, but we say, “I can’t do that.” “I couldn’t do that.” It’s a stop light. It’s a relationship. She’s dating that guy.
Then the next thing I heard was that they found her. They said it was out there on the Otis Road. It was Thanksgiving. And I came home then. I had to go into the police station two times. Two or three times even. I took a lie detector test. I had nothing to hide. Nothing to hide at all. It was very traumatic to go through this situation of it. I was nineteen years old.
People tell me a lot of things about what might have happened to her. That she was with a lot of other people while I was gone, and she was supposed to be okay, but she had problems with her mother. Her and her dad got along well, I thought. Because he knew about me, but I don’t think her mom did. And I knew the grandmother a little bit, too.
But overall? I don’t know shit about what happened. So, why did they persecute me? I had nothing to do with what happened. I took a lie detector test twice. My mother was with me. My dad was out of town. And I passed, too, with flying colors, both times. I had nothing to lie about. I had nothing to hide. But still, I was a nervous wreck.
I was going to school, playing ball, keeping in shape, travelling and stuff, and I wasn’t even in the state when it happened. I was in Illinois, down south, playing ball. Because I had to keep in shape. I was trying to be a pro.
And then the next thing I know this thing happens. I get back here and they tell me that shit. Man, I didn’t even want to see anybody.
Why in the fuck would I want to kill somebody that I loved? That would be like me killing my mother. I mean, she was just like that to me, you know? She was just like that to me. Or my daughter or son, whatever. I don’t know how to say it or express it, but it was a lot of funky shit that went on. I wasn’t here, and so I couldn’t control it, being away, and if she hadn’t gotten hooked up with certain people, it never would have happened. Never would have happened at all, because we would have gone out there to Colorado, and I’d have gone to school. She’d have done what she wanted. And so, boom, like that. We’ would have been okay. I mean it. Super okay. Because that girl was my heart. I mean, we would call each other every night, see each other at school. And it was fun. It was real. The real thing.
That beat the shit out of me for a long time. After that happened, for four years, I couldn’t get a job. Had to go out of state to get a job. I couldn’t get a job in Cedar Rapids, because they knew I was involved. Just by virtue of the fact that I had been her boyfriend. So then when I did finally come back, things were not really good. I had people talk to me. They’d say, “Hey man, did you have something to do with that?”
I’m still messed up with that. I mean, I went through hell with that shit, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it. I doubt it. I doubt it my whole life. It’s like on me, all the time. I mean, people blamed me for what happened to Paula. And as far as I know, they’re still blaming me.
It’s like something came out of the clouds and struck something away from me. All I know was I had to be involved because we were dating. And then, after that, she really fucked up. Oh man, they scrutinized me. I mean, they like tarred me or something.
I know nothing, and that’s the truth. Hell, I wasn’t even in the state at the time. I wasn’t even here.
But see, we had plans to do some other things. We were going go to out to Colorado. Her dad was out there, and we were going to go out there when I got back that summer after she graduated. We were going to go out there and be with her dad. She was going to go to school there. Or I could go to school there and she was going to model or do whatever she wanted to do. That was our game plan, but then that happened. I said, “Oh fuck.” I mean, it just blew me away.
There just had to be some dirty shit involved, because she wouldn’t do that. Go out like that at night, in just her nightgown. She had on a nightgown I bought her one time. And the diamond ring. I bought her that, too. It was like an engagement thing. And the nightgown she was wearing, we picked that out together, down at Armstrong’s. That was back in the beginning, before I graduated.
I heard that she left in a vehicle and didn’t return home, and I heard that some people did an abortion with her. I didn’t know who those people were. Some chiropractor or somebody did that, and to this day I can’t understand why she didn’t come to me. I would have taken her to the hospital, and then that situation never would have arose. It never would have happened. Because she meant a lot to me, and I wouldn’t want her hurt or anything like that.
If it was my baby, she would have told me. I know she would have. Then we both would have sat down and we would have figured it out, between us. We would have kept the child, I’m pretty sure of that, and we would have gotten married. We’d have been a mother and father couple.
My mother would have absolutely loved it. She would have been very positive with it, I know. My great-grandfather was Caucasian, and my mother’s half Caucasian. So there was no big problem race-wise with her. Plus, she loved Paula. I mean they got along real well. So it would not have been a problem with that. It woulda been her first grandchild. That’s if the child was mine.
Someone said she was over there in that part of town that night, looking for me, but I wasn’t there and so she got caught. Somebody grabbed her. Off the street or something like that. If she’d come to my house, she would have knocked on the door, to see if my mother was there. And then she would have stayed put until I came home. Even at midnight or whatever it was. She would have had no fear about knocking. My grandmother loved her. My mother loved her. So there’s no way she would not have knocked on that door. No way. Because they knew her. And they would have said, “Come in, he’ll be home sometime.” Because she would have been welcome, they would have had her come in. No matter what time it was. Especially if it was late, like it was, and however she was dressed, they would not have turned her away. There’s no way. It was just too dangerous over there. You wouldn’t want to be out like that at that time of the night.
And back then you wouldn’t have known who was dangerous or not. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time and around the wrong people, that’s how you find out who is dangerous or not.
Paula and I were best friends. We lived on the West side. 1st Avenue NW. We had a house, and what you did was rent a room from this woman. It was $12 a week back then, and you had a kitchen and everything like that.
Lonnie Bell. He was crazy, he really was. She borrowed my car. She was in her nighty and she wore beautiful panties. Pretty pretty nightgown and everything. I got home from work at Spartan’s. I worked like from 6-10 or something, whatever it was. And I got home and she didn’t have a car. And I had a black Chevy Nova and she said, “There’s something wrong. There’s something wrong.” And she was in this room that there was a fireplace, and I said, “What’s wrong, Paula?” And she said, “Nothing.” I said, “Come on, tell me.” “I need to go out for a pack of cigarettes.” And I said, “Of course you can’t go in your nightgown,” and she said, “Well, they’ll come out to the car.” Martins. That station, I think that was where she went. She never came back.
She was there when I got home from work and I got off work at 9 or 10 o’clock at night. And I came home and she was all ready for bed. She wouldn’t tell me why.
There was a story that was the only story that really was believable about how there was a botched abortion. She went for an abortion that night. I thought she was going out for a pack of cigarettes. The police wouldn’t help me. They found my car. The police, they were horrible.
So. Because the father could have been Robert Williams or Lonnie Bell, and she told me this. I was working at Spartan’s and it was a couple months after what happened, this couple came in and my shift, something used to lock on it, and you had to lift up the hood and you had to pull this certain thing, and then the clutch would work. And they had seen her, you know, out on the First Avenue, and they said, you know, she was in her nightgown. The next thing she was dead, and the reason that I know that is because of what the police officer that was a friend of my brother-in-law told him that it was a botched abortion and they knew it was this chiropractor, but they couldn’t pin it on him. And I always said they could have dropped her off at the emergency room. She wouldn’t have said a word. But no. They left her to bleed to death. The policeman heard. She bled to death.
They went out to Otis Road, and there was a switch track up there and a couple boys, young boys, and they found her skeleton or whatever remains there were, and then I had to go down and ID the nightgown and the jewelry that she had on, and I did.
I called them for a solid year before she was found and I’d been telling them… My car was found in a no parking zone—No Parking Here to Corner. And I called the police and I told them, “Blah blah blah,” and they said just leave it there and we’ll take care of it. And well then it got about five tickets before they towed it. They were gonna tow me away! I called the police and said I’m being towed away. Never did anything but take the car. So, let’s see… nine months later they impounded my car.
Nothing in the car except the back windows were rolled down. Other than that, nothing. Because you see I was coming home from Spartan’s, and I didn’t roll the back windows down, I didn’t, and they said, “What’s different?” and I said, “I didn’t roll the back windows down. That’s what’s different.” I think she was back there, and they were deciding what to do.
It was supposed to be the chiropractor, but I couldn’t tell you who they were, because I don’t know. I could go with a guess of Robert Williams, but in my own opinion he’s crazy now.
Abortion wasn’t legal in Iowa. It was set up. It got all set up real quick that night. Because she asked if she could borrow my car for to go get a pack of cigarettes and I said, “Yeah.”
She moved in and she didn’t have to sneak out anymore.
She was always with Robert. She was dating Lonnie but he was crazy. Whether he was schizophrenic or manic depressive or bipolar. He could go in a three hundred and eighty degree circle, laughing and then all of a sudden, “What are you looking at?” You know, like that, in a matter of seconds. I was afraid of him, so I never stayed at the house. I never was in the same room as he was.
She went to get an abortion. That was the plan, and that was why she was crying when I got off work and came home. Then something was very upsetting her a lot, and I don’t know now if it was upsetting her or if she was scared and nervous. If she’d have told me I would’ve went along, you know, it probably would have been the two of us dead then, because I would have went along. But she was very nervous and very upset about something. And she came to me, she said, “Can I use your car to go out and get a pack of cigarettes. And I said, “Yeah, of course you can, Paula.” But I believe that because Lonnie Bell was kinda crazy and I don’t know if she met Robert, but I think everything had been set up by the time I got home from work. And she was not to even tell me. Her friend. That’s how serious a situation it was.
She could cry in front of me, and she could be so horribly depressed and crying, but she wouldn’t tell me.
We had roommates that we didn’t know. Because at that time it was a big house and there was four bedrooms or something, and it was rented out by the room, and so there was a roommate that I didn’t even know, and Paula and I were there, too.
It was a house. You walk into the house and then you go up the steps. There was like four bedrooms and there was a bath and then as you come in the front door there was the living room and the dining room and the kitchen. It was just a house with four bedrooms. And these four bedrooms had to be rented out.
It was 12 dollars a week or something like that. And, you know, who could pass that up? So, I rented a room and then she rented a room. I knew she was seeing Robert. I don’t know how much or anything like that. And there was Lonnie who was white. He was white. Lonnie was white. Didn’t matter if he was a nutcase.
I was working at the dry cleaning place. You know, I brought the clothes out to people, and one day they came and then they came two times after that, and I had to take three lie detector tests.
She was there when I got home between 10:30 and 11:00. I was single then. There was no relationship with anybody.
I never knew this Besler girl. I think there were three of us, and I don’t even know if there was a fourth one there.
I moved out of the apartment into this room because of another roommate that I had had this boyfriend who beat her up all the time, and I found another place to live.
Paula told me in a way that I was supposed to know, she said, “You know what I mean.” But I didn’t know. “Can I use your car? Can I borrow your car to go out and get a pack of cigarettes?” And I said, “Why?” And she said, “Well, you know.” But I didn’t know what I knew. “Yeah, that’s fine.” “You know.”
Nobody had any interest in my side of the story ever, because everybody, her family included, thought I had something to do with her murder.
I am naïve because I told the truth and thought therefore everybody else did. She said, “Can I borrow your car to get cigarettes?” and “You know.” Well, years later that haunts me. That haunts me and haunts me, and I know I didn’t know.
Here’s what I thought. She was going out for a pack of cigarettes. Like that. Because she was very upset, and I knew we were going to talk, and she said, “I’ll be right back. Can I borrow your car?” And I said, “Okay, yeah.” Something’s wrong. And that’s how naïve I was. Very naïve. Took what everybody said for the truth. I was very worried, and the next morning I thought, I have to work at 10. Before that, in the morning, I called Lynn and said, “Something’s wrong.” “What?” And I said, “Paula.” You know, “Paula borrowed my car and…” We didn’t have cellphones or anything. I said, “Look, um, Paula didn’t come back and I have to go to work.” You know, how am I gonna get there? That’s what happened. That’s what happened.
What else could it be but an abortion? That was my thought. What else could it be? It was between Lonnie and Robert.
She’d had one one time before. She’d bought some pills that was called quinine. I don’t know what they are. It’s supposed to be an abortion. So she took this quinine and then, you know, her period came. This was in high school.
Lonnie was in and out of there.
It was a botched abortion. She bled to death. And they tied her up. Everyone black. Only one white person. It was a chiropractor. I don’t even know his name. And I heard he was the one that gave her an abortion and it was botched.
The last words I remember: “Cigarettes,” and “You know.” And it haunts me to this day. No! What did I know? I didn’t know. At the time we’re 19, 20 years old, and you know, 15 years later, I’m going, “You know?” No, I didn’t know nothing.
I was known in high school as being really wild. I did it to hurt my mom. I was so wild and crazy to hurt her, that’s all.
Paula and I didn’t do drugs. Except if someone came over to the house or something.
Every now and then we’d drink a bottle of cough syrup.
Every once in a great while we’d do LSD. Because we were told that you could only take one tab of acid. Now people they take 13, 14 hits, but what we were told was you take acid and you can’t take another hit of acid for a week because it wouldn’t give you the same effect. So we bided by the rules. We didn’t do any other drugs, no.
She had a secret life.
I took people at their word. I was very gullible, and when Paula and I lived together, if anything like that was going on with these people, it would have had to have been 10:00, because I was at work. What were we? 18, 19. That night I came home, she was there, and that was not unusual for her to be ready to go to bed. Very pretty, you know, she had pretty things, and you know… she had… whatever… earrings…
One time these black people got her quinine and told her it would abort. Obviously she wasn’t pregnant, and then it happened again and she got quinine and it didn’t work.
When she lived at home, she wasn’t allowed to use any towels that they used because Robert was black. And she had her own dish and her own silverware, and they were not to be mixed with the other silverware and like that. And it got to the point, whenever she moved in with me, it was just too hard for her. She absolutely adored her little brothers. Her mother was, like, turning the boys against her. Separate towel. And it wasn’t kept a secret from the boys. “You know where your towel is. Your plate.” I don’t know how she ever forgave her mom for that. She did tell me that.
Lonnie was a loser, but he was white. Never mind that he was crazy.
I grew up in that neighborhood. So I knew Robert all my life. All black. That’s where I grew up.
I had friends that were black. I grew up with them. They were my best friends. I talked to Bobby Maddox. He was so black, he was purple.
My dad died in 1968, when I was 15 years old. It was kind of a relief. I went out like a banshee, because a couple of other things happened to me when I was young, after my dad died and then my mom had this boyfriend and he came over to the house one day and I was home sick.
I have two older sisters. And a little brother. I was the youngest girl.
Paula and I became friends through Jack, because, she was his girlfriend. And, you know, Schneider and I were either friends or foes, and I knew of her. Because I knew that he was pinching her and stuff and hitting her and stuff, and I thought, Oh, he really loves her.
Buchheister got her front tooth knocked out by Aaron Doolin. I was living with her, but I couldn’t stand watching all that. And she wouldn’t get away from him.
I loved the heck out of George Steinke in 4th grade. We lived down in like what they called the slums, and they would play baseball in the alley across from our alley, and so I took a sweatshirt and me and a friend, we put “George” all over my sweatshirt, and then he bought me a ring at the corner store that was a dime.
I absolutely loved him. I don’t think I’ll ever get over him. Then he got married to Kathy McVey. I didn’t like her because she was marrying George. That really… I was kind of… It was like when Bruce Springsteen got married. You know, I was just furious! And I swore to him I would never listen to his music again after he married. I was so mad at him. Well, it’s the same thing with McVey and George. They got divorced then.
But you know, when I run into him we still look in each other’s eyes, you know, cuz he was my very first love, and he lived like 2 blocks from me, and so we would stand on the corner by the corner store, you know, after he got done playing baseball in the alley, and talk and talk and talk. Absolutely adored him. I still do.
George lived on a street that had mostly white neighbors. I lived next door to a prostitute. Now you can imagine, I mean, we’re in elementary school and Big Ruthie—which was involved with the murder that Aaron Doolin did—but she lived at that time right next door to us. And she would come downstairs just wrapped in a sleeping bag
I was friends with Bonnie Burns. She was a grade lower than us, and she got pregnant, and she didn’t even tell me. She told me she was going to a private school the following year, in the summer. And she goes, “I wish you could come along,” and I said, “My mom doesn’t have that kind of money, you know.” And I believed her. And I found out five years later that she had a baby. That’s how much people told me.
When my mom didn’t break up with this boyfriend that she had, I went wild. Nuts. Anything I could do to hurt her, I did. She kept him around.
I never liked pot. It always made me paranoid. Never liked it. And I just did LSD, you know.
I never did heroin. Paula could have been doing heroin, but I can’t say for sure, because I didn’t recognize anybody doing anything then. Unless I was sitting there and they were putting something in their arm, I wouldn’t know.
I had a crush on Mike Cochran. He was from the West Side, and I was the first one to move into that house from where Paula disappeared from, and Mike Cochran came over and he knew I had a crush on him, and I might not have a lot of brainpower, but I know right from wrong, and they had stolen somebody’s checkbook and they said, “It’s gonna be very easy, Debby. All you have to do is write those checks.” And you know, I’m usually like, “Oh okay, I’ll do that.” You know, like a dunce. And this time I said, “That just doesn’t sound right. I can’t do that.” And then I read in the paper where they got busted.
I lived on 6th Street.
She had another whole life, Paula did. She didn’t tell me a word.
I was never in Robert’s house, but I took Paula over there. I didn’t really care for Robert. He kinda scared me. It was his demeanor that scared me. Made me uncomfortable. And he never came over to the house that we lived in. As far as I know. And then there was Lonnie Bell. I mean, the pick of men that she had. And he was crazy, you know.
We were all out at Lake McBride when she met Lonnie. Lonnie was blamed for it from the beginning.
Robert never came into the house, the house that we lived in. That I know of.
According to Paula, when her mother found out that there was a black guy involved, she had to have her own plate, her own fork, and she was not allowed to use any other than that.
I didn’t even know she was at the Nowhere Lounge. She was there when I came home. She was there. And she was off of the living room. There was a room with a fireplace, maybe a fake one, I don’t know. But she was there in that room. She was in her nightgown. I would say she was upset. I probably asked her what the matter was. But obviously she was very secretive.
I just let things go. I never questioned anybody. I did say, “Why are you going out for cigarettes in your nightie?” And she said, “Well, they’ll bring them out to me,” meaning the cigarettes.” And I said, “Well, I want you to come right back with my car.”
I had to go to work at six o’clock that evening. And see, my car was gone. And I called Lynn right away and I said, “Paula is missing.” Lynn already had her dead, you know. She said, “Oh no, I can just see her. You know how she wants her makeup. It’s probably all got wet and everything. She’s probably dead somewhere.”
I called the police right away, when I found my car, because they wouldn’t help me find it. Because she was associated with black people, they put her on a different level. “We’re not gonna work on this very hard” kind of attitude. One of the detectives said, “Well, somebody saw her at a party full of black people the other night, so we know she’s okay.” And I said, “In her nightgown?” But when I came home from work, I got home about 10:30, and came in and there was the room off the living room, and that’s where she was. And she was crying. She was upset. And I probably did ask her what was wrong, and she said, “You know.” And I didn’t. I thought there was trouble between Lonnie and Robert, but never in my life dreamed that she was pregnant. Never. And she wanted to get some cigarettes and that’s the last time I saw her.
Oak Hill was my neighborhood. I mean, it was where I grew up. And so she shouldn’t have been down there. There wasn’t much down 5th Street. There was a house, I can’t remember the girl’s name that lived in it, but she wasn’t allowed to play with us. I don’t remember anything being down there but this house. Her name was Christine.
She left right away. She didn’t go to bed first. I came in and she was waiting for me. I worked until 10:00. I came right home from work.
Lonnie was really, really mean. He was very abusive. I never talked a lot to him, because he was mean. He was a pretty mean man. But he had no reason to hurt her. I think Robert could have murdered her. I don’t know if it would be in anger or if it would be because she said there might be somebody else. But Robert was always so calm.
So when they found her she was too decomposed to tell if she had had a baby in her.
I was protecting her reputation. What happened was, she died. If the abortion went through, she wouldn’t have died and everything went on. That’s what I thought, that she was going for an abortion. But I didn’t know she was tearing around Cedar Rapids in her nightgown. I said something about that: “You’re leaving in your nightgown?” That’s when she told me she was gonna get some cigarettes and the guy would bring them out to her. And I said, “Then you come right back with my car, Paula. I mean it!”
We lived off of First Avenue on the Northwest side and across First Avenue I think there was one of those Martin stations? There was two of them in town. And I think that was the one. I never questioned anybody. Whatever people do is, I feel, their business.
It was bad being with two guys, in the first place. And a black guy to boot. I just always heard that it was a chiropractor that did it.
So they dropped my car off at this “no parking here to corner,” but somebody was in the back seat with the rear window down. I didn’t have those windows down. There was no blood in my car.
She’d borrowed it other times, too, but I was pretty protective of it, because my mom was insuring it and stuff, but I let her have it whenever she was gonna do little short trips. If she wanted to run to the store or if she wanted to run to the gas station. Things like that. But I always said, “Come right back.”
I don’t know who she was seeing, but I thought both Lonnie and Robert. The only thing I knew was she told me she was pregnant, but she didn’t know who the father was. She told me that before.
I remember when I called Lynn, I called her from the phone booth.
There was no sign of Paula doing speed, because she was a slob, you know. I was tired of picking up after her. Wherever her clothes landed, they stayed there, you know. We shared a room, you know, so the rent wouldn’t be so bad.
Remember, she was like 6 foot, five-nine or something. She used to borrow my clothes. And you know, I’m 5 foot, and one time my godmother send me a dress, or culottes, and it was green with big yellow daisies all over it. And she wanted to borrow it. So, of course I let her borrow it. She gave it back, it was so small for her it was ripped up all the way in the back. I mean, then she’d say, “Can I wear this blouse?” and I’d say, “How are you gonna get into it? I mean, Paula, you’re bigger, you’re five inches taller than me. You know you probably weigh 30 pounds more than I do.” But she got herself in them.
I think she felt very highly of herself.
Why was Paula crying, you know? And she said, “It’s nothing.” I thought it was Robert and Lonnie. She didn’t tell me she was pregnant. I wouldn’t have let her go. I wouldn’t have let her go alone.